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The NHS is sometimes described a one of the last paper-based industries. Yet there are obvious disadvantages to operating on paper or electronic versions of it, such as fax. Paper-based records can only be seen and maintained by one person at a time; so patients spend a lot of time giving out the same details to different professionals. Even then, doctors, nurses and social care staff may not have complete or up to date information. Letters and faxes take time to send and receive. Patients and users can only get access to their own information with considerable effort. These problems show up particularly in out-of-hours services; studies have shown that A&E staff can spend hours calling surgeries or standing by faxes, just to find out what drugs a patient is taking. They also show up when patients need to move around the system; GPs often complain that they only find out that one of their patients has been in hospital when they turn-up in surgery. Another patient may be stuck on a ward waiting for a social care assessment. These issues have led some areas of the country to invest in information sharing and shared care record projects. A good example is Bristol, which has been working on a project called Connecting Care since 2011. Connecting Care in Bristol Programme managerJocelyn Palmer explains that the project has been through two phases. The first was a pilot to share GP-held data — such as basic patient details, allergies and medications — with out-of-hours and A&E services. The pilot, which went live in 2013, fed information from local GP IT systems into a portal. From there, urgent care staff could see it, as long as their job role gave them permission and patients gave their consent. The second phase, which started in 2015, scaled the system. The pilot covered 500 practitioners, most of them working in Bristol’s three acute hospitals. Phase two already covers 2,000; with mental health, community services and social care on board. “We wanted to develop a true shared care record; something that was richer [than the pilot] and that could support care in different ways,” Palmer says. “For example, we have been working with three local authorities to include some information from children’s digital systems to improve safeguarding.” “The idea is that if you are working in an emergency department you will be able to see some information about a child you are treating; for example that they have been taken to a lot of different A&E departments.” Phase two has also brought in new types of content, such as electronic documents and discharge summaries The documents that tell a GP what has happened to a patient in hospital. It will also support some technical changes, such as closer integration with hospital systems. “We want to enable [hospital staff] to access the record with the click of a button from within the record [they use day to day],” says Palmer. “It should make a big difference, because people to not want to have to log-in to lots of different systems while they are doing their jobs.” Read full article:

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