How can better information sharing between health and care settings improve diabetes care?

Sandra Baughan, Founder and Managing Director at Quic, currently enabling better management of diabetes through the development of digital care planning for long term conditions, blogged for us about the need for changing current practices in recording and sharing diabetes data between clinicians and care homes via an efficient data orchestration ecosystem.

With the growing number of people living with diabetes and the demand for social care services, it is now more important than ever to fully utilise the potential of data and digital to improve the management of this condition and enable social care providers to contribute to this. But having the right technology is not the solution in itself – there are challenges to be overcome, including a lack of access to data that care homes often experience.

Diabetes information currently doesn’t flow seamlessly across different systems and can’t be edited by relevant health and care professionals. This is a well-recognised problem in care homes, where staff can often view information from a person’s GP summary record, but can’t input to it, resulting in a significant obstacle in providing holistic, integrated care.

Similarly, information such as care plans, diagnoses, occupational therapy assessments and test results do not always travel with the person when they are transferred from hospital to care home. This is especially problematic for people living with a number of health conditions – the lack of integrated information about their health prevents them from receiving the care they need. With diabetes often co-existing with other long-term conditions, it is important to enable staff to record and share information from different sources to provide care based on informed decision-making. It is also essential to support collaboration between clinicians and care home teams when setting holistic targets for treatment which also take into account any frailty, palliative care needs etc.

NICE recommends that when an older person is admitted into hospital, a comprehensive geriatric assessment (CGA) should start as soon as possible. However, the valuable AHP assessments are not often shared at discharge and don’t travel with the person as they move to a different setting. This is an example of why we need to get transfers of care right to make sure that this information doesn’t get lost and reaches the right professionals throughout a person’s care to help inform their needs fully.

Care providers should also be able to ascertain what people know about their own conditions to be able to meet their needs as best as possible (and the PRSB’s About Me Standard is a starting point for this). For example – if somebody has lived with type 1 diabetes for 40 years, they will probably know how to self-manage this condition, but if they develop dementia and are admitted to a care home, their ability to understand or self-manage this condition might be affected. Knowing all key health information about this person allows care providers to put themselves in their shoes and understand what diabetes means to them at this particular stage in their life.

Consistent recording and sharing of information between different settings can ensure that care providers have the knowledge that will help them to deliver high-quality care. This is where the PRSB’s Diabetes Standard should be used – the standard enables sharing diabetes information between people and professionals across all care settings, which also includes self-management data from digital apps and medical devices (e.g., continuous glucose monitors).

There is also a need for training to ensure that staff have basic digital skills and that they are comfortable with using technology given to them. To make sure that such technologies meet users’ needs and make their work easier, rather than feel like a burden, they should be put into use in collaboration with care home professionals themselves – it’s all about taking the ‘do it with them’ approach, rather than ‘do it to them’.

In summary, there is so much potential for care homes to help maintain the continuity of care for people with diabetes. It is crucial that all of us – health and care providers, system suppliers and people using services – work collaboratively to make the best use of information sharing and ensure that it is utilised for better care services. Quic are glad to be working with the PRSB to help drive interoperability and data integration and are supportive of the adoption of their information standards as an essential  means to improve the effectiveness of providers’ work and enhance people’s experience and outcomes of care.

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