In his latest article for the Resource Centre section of the magazine, Dr O’Hanlon argues that the challenge is not developing the data-sharing technology – it already exists. The difficulty is in persuading trusts, CCGs, clinicians and patients to use it.
O’Hanlon echoes the findings of the Caldicott review when he says that better education is needed on the ‘overwhelming advantages’ of record sharing, and exactly what it means for clinicians’ responsibilities and patient confidentiality.
The article argues that every NHS patient benefits from secure data sharing, particularly the huge numbers of elderly people suffering from long term conditions, who can avoid a ‘precautionary’ hospital admission from A&E through record-sharing that gives emergency clinicians access to vital data, including the patient’s medical history and health and social care plan.
O’Hanlon points out that child protection is another key area where synchronised, secure data sharing is a no brainer. He cites the example of the child and adolescent mental health service from Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board, where 10 teams are providing joined-up psychiatric care to more than 5,000 young people, via record-sharing with EMIS Web. It’s a project that is set to stop ‘at risk’ children falling through the care net.
Programme lead Karen McFadden says: “We believe this will help us to identify and protect vulnerable children… where we suspect a child protection issue, we can call up information from the single shared record, hugely speeding up our response.”
Barriers to data-sharing
While all the evidence shows that the vast majority of patients themselves are surprised to hear their data is not being shared already, there are still legitimate concerns over consent and confidentiality from GPs– who take their responsibilities as data controllers under the Data Protection Act very seriously. The solution? O’Hanlon recommends obtaining the patient’s consent to sharing specific, relevant data at each episode of care and for each professional involved as the most robust and scalable method.
He concludes: “Existing healthcare systems can supply all the tools that local health economies need to make integrated care through data sharing a reality…enabling safer, more efficient care and driving up standards across the NHS.”