Data changes lives – how information-sharing and recording can help transform social care

A guest blog from Katie Thorn, Project Lead at Digital Social Care

While we are experiencing greater appetite for the use of digital data in healthcare, the demand is also becoming more prevalent in social care. Our report published with Skills for Care in 2021 informs that 20% of care organisations considered themselves as ‘digitally matured’, as opposed to only 12% in 2019. In a more recent publication from Ipsos Mori, it was reported that 40% of adult social care workforce feel secure in their use of digital technologies. We can expect this percentage to grow even more rapidly within the next few years, especially with the government’s plans to ensure 80% of CQC-registered adult social care providers will use digital care records by March 2024. But how can we make sure that we fully utilise them to improve the quality and efficiency of care?  

With the constant transfer of people between health and social care settings, it is important that the information flows from one system to another, in order for the person to receive the best care possible. Integration and interoperability are crucial to this. There is a tremendous level of frustration when people transfer from healthcare to social care, and little or no records travel with them. For example, it’s essential that social care professionals are able to see corresponding GP records, including blood test and current medication information. This should be provided in real-time, avoiding the need for carers to spend valuable time calling hospitals. To be able to deliver effective care, we need a holistic overview of somebody’s life. Using information standards, such as PRSB’s eDischarge summary, can help support the information sharing between healthcare and social care. 

Enabling care providers to use data on an ongoing basis is empowering and means they have more time to deliver better care. Instead of documenting data in multiple streams, they should be able to do it just once and digitally at the click of a mouse. However, recording data is not simply about putting information on a screen – to use it effectively, we need to remind ourselves why we want to record it in the first place. We must remember whose data it is, and how it is used meaningfully and ethically.  

Data is everywhere in our lives – care organisations need to think about how to store and how to share it. However, data does not only include basic information, such as demographics, age or a condition with which a person lives. To help deliver more person-centred and effective care, we need to think about the data that matters to the people we support– for example, how they would like to be communicated with or how they would like to be fed. Implementation of PRSB’s ‘About Me’ standard facilitates consistent capture of this information, enabling its flow between health and social care services.  

Care providers do not need to be technology experts to work with data. Indeed, data has been held and used in paper formats as long as social care has been around. However, knowing what to do with data and how it should be utilised to achieve the right outcomes for individuals is the first step in understanding how to capture information consistently for seamless transfer between settings. Education and development is required in three key areas – people, processes and technology, and in that order.  

Adopting digital solutions offers a consistent story and rigorous audit trail in the provision of care, which means that carers can make informed decisions and work more efficiently and effectively, resulting in high-quality care. I am looking forward to seeing how further digitisation, including accurate and consistent information sharing and recording, enabled by standards, will help transform social care services and deliver better outcomes for their users.  

Social care providers can help accelerate this progress by achieving excellence in the implementation of information standards, contributing to more integrated care and improved interoperability. The PRSB’s Standards Partnership Scheme can support them in doing so – find out more.

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