This month we published the Care Home Information Flows Report, which analyses the information gaps between care homes and health care providers. The report, which can be found online, shows that nine in 10 care homes are still getting paper records, while others are getting inadequate information.
One of the main challenges for us is to get away from fax communications. They’re very insecure and can go anywhere. The standard route for discharging someone to social care is via fax- so it’s still one of our biggest challenges. We definitely need to move towards a more secure system.
Another big challenge for us surrounds transfers of care. We need to make sure we have accurate information about a person’s care, particularly about medication. There are often last minute changes to a person’s medication as they come out of hospital and this needs to be communicated properly. The other issue is knowing where these medications are actually available, particularly end-of-life care drugs which aren’t always available from every pharmacy, such as morphine.
There’s a lack of standardisation between hospitals and GPs. Ideally, we would want to have access to GP records for up-to-date medication information, but this can take up to 24 hours after the transfer of care because we aren’t using digital information. As well as information on medication, we need to know whether someone has an infection and needs ongoing treatment. For older patients with weaker immune systems, there’s a higher risk of infection when in hospital. These infections can spread quickly and it’s important that we’re aware of these issues, to protect both the patient and other care home residents.
What steps do we need to take to move forward?
We need more standardisation in information, so that everyone involved in care planning is clear what care is needed and who is responsible for it. The next big step towards this will be the development of the digital integrated care and support plan standard. There are so many different services involved in a care plan, with many different views on what should be included. We want to get to the point where we have structured data, that can be shared easily between different areas of health and social care. In recent years, self-care and patient autonomy has become a more pressing issue. In the care sector, we need to have access to information, and know who the information should be available to, particularly for people who have problems understanding their care and needs. For more information go to www.theprsb.org/projects.