19 February 2016
Imagine the benefits if the NHS was able to discard paper notes and move to an integrated, all-digital care records service.
For starters there would be greater convenience for patients - wherever and whenever they were receiving care. It would also pave the way for doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to provide faster and more accurate diagnoses.
Well the reality is that the NHS in England has made the commitment that ‘all patient and care records will be digital, interoperable and real-time by 2020.’
And, as part of these plans, CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups), which organise the delivery of local NHS services in England, are now working to make sure that paper-free targets are met by the end of the decade.
All of this spells good news for the NHS, its staff and its patients.
What’s more, it highlights the government’s firm belief that improving the use of technology will work wonders for the delivery of healthcare now and in the future. And it’s putting its money where its mouth is, investing more than £4 billion in IT over the next five years to help ease pressure on the frontline and create stronger partnerships between doctor and patient.
Two trail-blazing programmes which support these ambitions are currently underway in London. And BT is helping to drive both.
In Islington BT is linking up information systems currently in use by 10,000 health and social care professionals to increase levels of care for the borough’s 206,000 residents.
The company has been awarded a five-year contract to develop a secure integrated digital care record which pulls together data from information systems in different care settings into a single place. As a result, authorised health and care professionals will be able to get a more complete view of a person’s care.
This means clinicians and care workers in health and social care in Islington will be able to access all the data they need electronically, giving them detailed information about all their patients’ encounters with the NHS and social care - and visibility of their entire care pathway.
It’s the first time information systems in Islington in health and social care will ‘interoperate’ - and it’s a key step towards the government’s target for all patient care records to be digital, real-time and interoperable by the end of 2020.
The new service is the largest health and social care interoperability programme of its kind in the UK, and is expected to go live in autumn 2016.
It will help to reduce errors as vital information collected about a person by one organisation, such as allergies, prescription medicines and care plans, can easily be viewed together in one place by health and care workers treating them in other organisations.
This information will be presented in a secure manner on the practitioner’s device - whether it be desktop, laptop or tablet.
One of the key objectives from the government’s commitments is that everyone should have access to their own electronic health record which will be shared between professionals so patients will no longer have to repeat their medical history.
This is precisely what BT’s new service in Islington will do. People will have access to their own person-held record, giving them access to their own health and social care information, which will help them take part in and actively manage their own long-term health and care.
They’ll be able to see information such as their test results, upcoming appointments, and also share information with clinicians and carers such as their weight and blood pressure and any over the counter medicines they’re taking.
Ian Dalton, president of Global Government and Health, BT Global Services, says:
“Pioneering programmes of this kind are vital in helping government and the NHS to provide interoperability between systems by 2020 to help drive efficiency and cost savings, and importantly, put people at the heart of their care.”
Meanwhile, patients with heart failure at Guy’s and St Thomas’ will be the first in London to use smartphones that can keep track of their health and alert nurses if they are in danger, with support from BT.
Twenty-five patients are trialling the smartphone, which is part of a health monitoring kit that takes daily readings of weight, heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels in the blood.
The data is collected using bluetooth and sent to BT’s Telehealth service. A nursing team analyse the data, discuss unusual findings with patients and inform Guy’s and St Thomas’ nurses when an abnormal result is detected so they can take immediate action - potentially saving lives.
Martin Larner, a heart failure clinical nurse specialist at Guy’s and St Thomas’, says: “The kit is a constant reminder to heart failure patients that they need to change their lifestyle and take control of their health so the condition doesn’t worsen.”
He adds: “With the patient monitoring their condition and the system alerting our nurses when there is a problem we hope to stop patients from reaching crisis point and being admitted to hospital or visiting the GP. The monitoring kit has the potential to save many lives.”
Concludes BT’s Ian Dalton: “BT continues to drive the transformation of health and social care. These two projects clearly demonstrate how technology can truly transform patient care and the way it is delivered."