Diagnostic information is important in healthcare – pathology data follows the patients from their first medical encounters through their diagnostic and treatment pathway, and throughout their whole journey. Accurate and comparable information is a cornerstone of any medical data exchange and decision making, therefore establishing and adopting underlying principles and standards of coding and communication are essential.
The PRSB is supporting NHS Digital to standardise pathology coding. There are some 250 pathology labs that will be affected by this programme and at present it is unclear how information flows between them and primary and secondary care providers. Different providers and vendors also use a variety of coding systems, which are useful and safe in their own settings. But consolidation of information from different labs is difficult. Past efforts to unify diagnostic coding have not been successful and clinical engagement is needed if solving this problem is to succeed.
NHS Digital were keen to involve PRSB and clinicians in the Digital Diagnostics programme now being undertaken. In April PRSB began the initial phase of work to support the definition of a scope and approach, and develop a plan for broad and comprehensive engagement with key stakeholder groups including professionals and patients.
PRSB and the Royal College of Pathologists are working with NHS Digital and the Digital Diagnostics programme to promote support for this work, provide clinical leadership for the design of a diagnostics test list, collection processes, validation and support for the wider efficiency strategies of NHS England and NHS Improvement and work with international experts on new coding content areas.