In the January 2021 episode of the Chief Among Friends podcast, Chris had a virtual chat with Orion Health’s UK Clinical Safety Officer Pauline McLean about her extensive work with the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK and her experience with Shared Care Records (SCRs), referred to in the US as the Health Information Exchange. 

Chris and Pauline discuss how SCRs have affected the way care is delivered in the UK, the benefits of SCRs, and lessons learned along the way. The following is a summary of their discussion, the full podcast can be found here.

Connecting data silos and working as one team

Before the NHS introduced SCRs, there was a time when information wasn’t easily shared between organizations. Valuable health data was siloed due to governance and gaps in the technology to support sharing of information across different systems. 

Pauline describes working as a nurse in the ward where “…if I took a call from the social care department asking about a patient, I could give no information.” Instead, a social worker would have to physically come into the hospital and meet with each health professional involved in a particular patient’s care to obtain the necessary information. Systems were fragmented and inefficient. 

Following the introduction of SCRs in the UK, local and regional collaboration began across health and social care delivered by local authorities. By developing and designing shared records, which capture traditional clinical data, GP data and social services in community assessments, health professionals now operate in a team-based model of care. Pauline describes this collaboration as “…key to ensuring that the individual is receiving the best possible care with minimal delays.” 

Sharing this data, ensuring the right information is visible to the right person at the right time, results in better coordination of care across services, a better experience for the patient and means each person is receiving the best possible care. Pauline describes “access to information not previously known saves lives. It reduces delays in treatment and leads to less frustration for the clinician trying to do the very best for the patient with the information they have”.

Sharing information saves lives

Simply put, “why wouldn’t you give access to the people who need the information which benefits the person they are responsible for?”, says Pauline. The development of SCRs in the UK is saving valuable clinician time, improves decision making, increases patient safety, reduces duplication of efforts and gives patients confidence in their care team. 

One of the biggest lessons learned from implementing SCRs in the NHS is that governance should not be a blocker. When data sharing agreements are in place, consent and privacy can be mapped accordingly based on relationships and roles, ensuring the right stakeholders have access to the right information they need to provide better care. The purpose of an SCR is to enable sharing and without that understanding the same siloed information problem occurs. 

In the full podcast, Chris and Pauline discuss these topics in detail plus talk about the types of data captured in the SCR, specific SCR benefits, and recommendations for other health systems looking to implement similar systems.