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The future of Shared Care Records – What’s on the horizon?

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Following the creation of Integrated Care Systems (ICS) across England, there has been an increase in the adoption of Shared Card Record (ShCR) solutions. This years’ Shared Care Record Summit explored best practice, benefits, and some of the current challenges. The Hewitt Review, recently published, considered some of these challenges and shared ideas on how ICSs can “thrive and deliver” – here are our thoughts on the future of Shared Care Records…

Although sharing data to support patient care has long been an ambition in health services across the UK, progress has been patchy. When NHSX set a target for all Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) to have a Shared Care Record (ShCR) in place by September 2021, the scale of the challenge looked different across parts of the country.  A year on, each of the 42 ICSs now have a ShCR in place. However, there are still a lot of different levels of maturity and challenges remain.

Additionally, with findings of the UK government’s progress in digitising the NHS being rated as inadequate, it’s safe to say that there is still a need for action and investment to accelerate the digitisation of the NHS and improve patient care. The Hewitt Review only further supports this claim by stating that ShCRs should be a priority for further development.

ShCRs are a key tool in supporting better integration and coordination of care across different health and care settings. They are central to many discussions around integrated care and the future of digital health itself. Joined up care is the future, so it’s important that patient data is circulated safely to the right people at the right time. Here are some of our learnings about how this can be achieved.

Agreeing on future priorities.

First and foremost, future priorities for ShCRs should include agreement of a central strategy from NHS England, designed in collaboration with regional teams. This initiative would further facilitate schemes to share information regionally, and even nationally.

Secondly, there should be a greater focus on social care integration. Levelling up provision to ensure a baseline of shared care record use should be a priority, especially when it comes to combating variability in systems across the country.

Other priorities should also be set when it comes to public engagement, emphasising the benefits of ShCRs to patients, and promoting a greater willingness to collaborate among organisations. Similarly, it’s important to consider patient and carer access to patient information via patient engagement platforms, with more of these procurements due to be released over the coming year.

Information governance as a facilitator.

Another hot topic within this space is that of information governance (IG), which should be seen as an obstacle to overcome and not as a blocker. Clear IG processes and data sharing agreements make it easier to access information, which also improves usability. Ensuring that IG leads are involved early in the project means any IG issues can be identified and resolved at the beginning.

Similarly, agreeing benefits at the beginning of a project rather than retrospectively following an implementation can set you up to succeed. If you know the benefits you want to achieve, the solution can then be tailored to deliver them.

Interoperability to enable seamless joined-up care.

The NHS is built in silos, with different systems and data structures, making interoperability between the systems a challenge. Recent developments have highlighted the slow progress that has been made in terms of the implementation of ShCRs blaming a widespread lack of standardisation and interoperability among different healthcare systems. This has created a barrier to the seamless exchange of patient data that is essential for effective shared care.

In fact, a number of technical and operational challenges need to be addressed to achieve interoperability in ShCRs, most importantly the question of technical standards. There needs to be a common set of technical standards that are agreed upon and implemented by all parties involved in the sharing of patient information.  There also needs to be focus on integrating social care services.

Funding, the final puzzle piece.

Finally, far from a novel idea, more funding is also needed to continue the work already done on ShCRs. In 2020, NHS Digital announced a £4.5 million funding package to support the development and implementation of ShCRs across the country. The funding was made available to support the expansion ShCRs, including the development of new functionalities, training and support for healthcare professionals, and the implementation of the system in new regions.

However, without sustained investment there is concern that many programmes may stall the progress that has been made so far in terms of ShCRs. Overall, the funding for ShCRs is an important investment in the future of the NHS and reflects the importance of digital technologies in supporting the delivery of high-quality, patient-centred care.

Policymakers and healthcare providers need to prioritise and invest in ShCRs to achieve all the benefits associated with them. This investment should include efforts to standardise data formats to improve interoperability and make it easier for different healthcare providers to share information. If ShCRs are to deliver the benefits they promise, including improving patient care, then this investment is needed to achieve the full potential.

For more information or support on any of the issues raised in this article please contact a member of our technical team by emailing or call 01392 363888.

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