Information Governance

Information governance is defined as an organisation-wide framework used in order to manage the use of information throughout its lifecycle and in accordance to its operational, regulatory, legal, risk, environmental and of course, strategic requirements. Information governance is of immense importance to the whole public sector, and to the healthcare sector in particular. The most important quality patients look for in any healthcare system is trust. Indeed, by entrusting their most personal information to healthcare organisations patients expect that this will be properly secured and appropriately used for their treatment.

For healthcare data, information governance rules state that patient information should be shared solely with those involved in delivering care.

Aside from this, the importance of sharing information across the whole healthcare economy is crucial and must be noted.

In fact, this may have an effect on relationships with patients as:

  • Patients repeating their information at different stages of any healthcare pathway may be an issue. Initially, patients are frustrated with the system, thus decreasing the quality of their experience. More importantly, repeated information is often repeated slightly differently, leading to changes in outcomes.
  • Patients will have less trust in the healthcare economy as whole due to expectations as patients reasonably expect their information to be already available across the necessary sectors.

In addition, when information is not being shared, errors will occur. To give an extreme example would be the famous case of Baby P, where a lack of sharing of information between agencies ultimately led to his death. Some argue that a way of preventing such an incident would have been for both child social care and healthcare to have the same information available. A smaller scale example would be an elderly individual visiting the hospital due to a fall and needing further assistance from social care. The more appropriately and quickly information is shared, the better patient outcome will be.

Interoperability

The interoperability of systems, and linking systems between health and social care is key to the correct availability of information at the correct place, in a secure manner. The Five Year Forward View recognises the need for better sharing of information and seeks to improve the situation by 2020.

However, health and social care organisation need to be working on this immediately, to build patient/citizen trust, and improve care outcomes. With a positive vision for the future surrounded by seven models of care for patients using the NHS, the Five Year Forward View has started to put a strategy in place.

For example, the creation of STPs is seen as one route to allow all care provides to access important medical information at the point of care delivery. Furthermore, the STPs should enable closer working between various care providers to increase patient satisfactions and improve care outcomes.

With deadlines approaching, the NHS have put together a varied number of services to ensure patient data is exchanged securely.

  • Spine Mini Service Provider (SMSP) is a new national capability service which gives access of read-only patient demographic data and NHS numbers. Using this system simplifies the way demographic data searches are made through internal web applications.
  • OpenID Connect has also been introduced to allow clinical application and services. This has been introduced as a cheaper and more importantly, easier option for services to be integrated with the national authentication platforms.

Communication

As new changes are implemented, it is vital that effective and efficient communication is made to ensure the correct take up and use of the services, which will lead to better patient outcomes. As the culmination of the Five Year Forward View approaches, the NHS must implement change at an increased pace. Poorly communicated change always leads to poor project implementation and can lead to overall failure.

Putting in place strong communications policies and programmes is vital to ensuring the success of a connected healthcare economy. Without all agencies involved in patient care – either directly or indirectly – being able to access the most up to date and relevant information in a secure manner, the NHS will continue to experience failures.

To ensure all those involved in care delivery are fully informed of the changes which are coming – and how these changes will affect them – organisations must work together to build holistic communications plans. In this manner the information to the patient, the clinician, the care provider, and any others involved will ensure the success of the programmes, while maintaining that confidentiality the patient/citizen expects and deserves.

Issues around these areas have constantly plagued the healthcare economy as a whole, leading to a number of failures in the system. However, with the correct communications strategy, a technically sound level of interoperability and strategic approach to complete information governance, healthcare economies will be able to deliver the most appropriate care at reduced costs.

If you wish to discuss these areas further, especially where you are looking at a full healthcare economy, please get in touch either by phone (020 3291 3573), email (info@strategic-discourse.co.uk), or by using our hashtags (#GetSDInvolved) and we can set up a free consultation.