COMMENT: Will the legacy of COVID-19 be joined-up care services?

Steve Whiting, lead on health sector initiatives for Cantium, which is driving the implementation of the Kent and Medway Care Record, explores whether the barriers to joined-up health and social care services be removed after the pandemic?

While there has long been debate about information governance in a health and care context, the COVID-19 pandemic has cast the topic in a completely-new light.

National Data Guardian, Dame Fiona Caldicott, recently talked about the need for information to be shared more quickly and wisely in the midst of the pandemic, and it has just been announced that there will be a government-funded study of how people’s attitudes have changed as a result of the pandemic.

The digital transformation of the health and social care sectors has been catapulted forward, with a decade of progress happening in a matter of weeks

Propelled by this shift in sentiment, the digital transformation of the health and social care sectors has been catapulted forward, with a decade of progress happening in a matter of weeks.

Instead of being led by complexities and challenges which might seem overwhelming, organisations are looking squarely at how to achieve the best-possible outcomes.

But, when rapid change is prompted by an unprecedented event like this, will it stand the test of time?

Is there a positive legacy to be left by this awful disease if we see the information governance barriers to joining up health and care services for patients lift for good in a post-pandemic world?

The information governance conundrum

One might ask: ‘what has held us back when, on the surface, joining up health and care services makes so much sense?’

Is there a positive legacy to be left by this awful disease if we see the information governance barriers to joining up health and care services for patients lift for good in a post-pandemic world?

Our work on the Kent and Medway Care Record (KMCR) started pre-pandemic and has given us significant insight. It is one of the biggest and most-complex projects of its kind in England as we work to unite health and social care across the entire Kent region.

We are now two years into driving forward the KMCR programme with decisions linked to the needs of the clinical professionals and based on latest technologies.

The mobilisation planning and how best to roll out a single care record are well advanced, and over the next six months we will see organisations across Kent and Medway being able to access key, life-saving data for patients across the region.

NHSX chief executive, Matt Gould, has said shared care records need to become the new standard and there are targets in place for them to be rolled out countrywide by 2023.

However, driving the KMCR forward hasn’t been without challenges – information governance being a big one in the context of today’s data and privacy concerns.

When common sense prevails

The public’s attention has been drawn time and again to the pitfalls around data sharing and privacy, so we must continue to be mindful of how people’s data is used – especially when we consider how sensitive as health and care data is.

There is nothing like a pandemic to sharpen focus, it seems, as we see NHS trusts and local authorities acting with not only speed, but also with the new-found confidence necessary to make big decisions with a trail of red tape left in their wake

However, the benefits to be derived from allowing it to flow more freely should surely prevail.

Steve Whiting

Never has the phrase ‘time is of the essence’ been more true.

There is nothing like a pandemic to sharpen focus, it seems, as we see NHS trusts and local authorities acting with not only speed, but also with the new-found confidence necessary to make big decisions with a trail of red tape left in their wake.

Really, it should always have been the case, but by putting the needs of the people at the centre of the delivery of health and care, the outcomes are better all round.

Making joined-up care a must-have

It is inconceivable that we will go back to life as it was before COVID-19.

Data and privacy concerns will always exist, but the perspective will undoubtedly be different on the other side of a global pandemic.

I, for one, am convinced that the great strides that have been made towards making joined-up health and care a reality through initiatives like the shared care record are here to stay

People want organisations delivering health and social care to act as one, and seeing the bigger picture when it comes to how data sharing enables that to happen.

I, for one, am convinced that the great strides that have been made towards making joined-up health and care a reality through initiatives like the shared care record are here to stay.

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