Camden Council is planning to begin using a secure message exchange system to share patient discharge information between hospitals and social care teams, ahead of plans to roll out the system nationwide.
Set for launch this May, the Adapter Project from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) will let health professionals at the Royal Free Hospital exchange the information with social care professionals based at the local authority.
it is hoped that the system will cut back on patients staying on wards longer than necessary.
Adapter is the brainchild of the Department of Health sponsored HSCIC, which provides information, data and IT systems for health and social care. HSCIC aims to launch a national programme in the next six months.
Camden is following in the footsteps of neighbouring Islington, which has also begun to use Adaptor to exchange hospital discharge information with Whittingham Hospital.
Patient discharge information includes discharge dates and the care plan that will need to be set up for their return to the community. Currently, discharge documents are sent between hospitals and social care departments using either fax or email, or both. But delays in exchanging this information can often cause backlogs of patients on the waiting list for beds.
Jo Barker, senior business analyst at Camden Council, said that implementing Adapter means eliminating delays caused by missed hospital discharge notification messages. For example, a message may be sent by email to a healthcare professional who is off sick, where it could linger in an inbox unread for days.
Adapter allows hospitals and social care departments to send and receive patient’s discharge documentation to team inboxes using an ‘unstructured to structured’ message workflow. The secure message exchange system is based on national structured messaging standard Clinical Document Architecture, an XML-based markup standard for the encoding, structure and semantics of clinical documents and the NHS’s Interoperability Toolkit (a set of common specifications that support interoperability across local health and social care communities).
Adapter ‘middleware,’ transforms the message based on these standards and sends it automatically to Camden’s social care case management system, where the relevant teams receive automated alerts. This also cuts out the need for staff to retype data.
“It should bring benefits to citizens, employees and the organisations involved and support innovation, which will have a positive impact in the critical area of winter pressures and delayed transfer of care from hospitals,” said Barker.
It does not require hospitals or local authorities to adapt or change their IT systems, said Keith Strahan, programme manager at HSCIC. “The point is, it facilitates sharing.”
Adapter builds on the HSCIC’s Health and Social Care Information Sharing Project (HSCISP), on which it has worked with health trusts and local authorities. The project was launched in 2010 to replace paper-based processes with electronic communications to improve patient care.
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