The impact of the About Me standard on the health and care system

A guest blog from James Woollard, CCIO at Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust.

It’s no secret that the health and care sector is under extreme pressure and time is a precious commodity for health and care professionals. Given these conditions, it is understandable if some professionals think that implementing digital tools, such as information standards and person held record systems, will only extend their already long list of tasks, taking up more time, and creating fewer opportunities to deliver care.

As a Consultant Psychiatrist and Chief Clinical Information Officer, I can confidently say that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Implementing PRSB’s About Me information standard in our OxCare Patient Held Record system at Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust is already facilitating personalised care, improving the quality of care I administer and in turn, giving me more time back in the process.

James Woollard: About Me and digital transformation

The PRSB developed the About Me standard to define and structure the personal information someone may want their clinicians, care workers and carers to know, that is not generally on a care record. About Me information could include, for example, someone’s preferred method of communication or their favourite mug they use to drink from when in hospital. The standard makes these extremely individualised details shareable between the different digital systems used in the sector, making it accessible wherever and whenever care is needed and keeping everyone involved in a person’s care informed of their distinctive requirements.

OxCare allows people who use our services to view and amend the personal and medical information in their care record. When implementing About Me, we wanted to ensure we consulted with people and professionals during the process to make the system functional for day-to-day tasks. After all, PRSB developed the standard through consultation with these groups and we wanted to use this approach for the full life cycle of the standard, from development to implementation.

James Woollard: Why co-development is important for About Me

At Oxleas, we want to ensure we are delivering excellent personalised care and, as a child psychiatrist, it is perhaps even more important that I am aware of the personal preferences, fears and requirements of people who use services that will allow them to feel safe and supported in my care. Adopting the About Me standard is integral to this. There was a worry that clinicians simply wouldn’t have time to meaningfully engage with the About Me information, but I have found the opposite to be true. For example, if a person needs to have a blood test, their About Me information may reveal that they have a fear of needles along with advice on how to overcome this that is specific to this person. You will then be able to take remedial action to complete the blood test quicker and with less stress for you and the person.

Take a moment to read the About Me profile to save time in the future

About Me is not simply a digital version of a paper record; static and immoveable. It is an active tool that is designed to be refined and changed over time to suit the needs of the person, their clinicians and the Trust. It has a free text structure with the option to include multimedia files, to be chosen and used as the person and professionals see fit. For professionals that work with children like myself, this is crucial as people can upload photos of their pets or record the video games they enjoy playing to relax. By using the versatile formats About Me allows, I can get to know the people I care for better and on their own terms. It simply wouldn’t be possible to record this information in this way on a care record that is limited to the clinical essentials.

About Me lets me understand the people I care for as more than just the diagnoses written in front of me

What we have is a digital tool that is broad enough to then be honed in several ways. This may seem counterintuitive but is actually the best way to enable personalised care. Take the iPhone as an example. The iPhone is a standardised piece of kit that can be personalised to your life and requirements in a highly specific way, and About Me works in a similar way. A person’s carer can use the free text structure to record that the person has a favourite mug they prefer to drink from. This preference might not seem that important, but it is critical for the professional to know if that person refuses to drink liquids from any other mug and subsequently becomes dehydrated, for example. The design of About Me enables care that works around the person rather than the person having to work around their care, and in turn safer outcomes can be achieved.

The quantitative results of using About Me and improved outcomes aren’t yet identifiable but the qualitative analysis is already here: The About Me standard allows clinicians to understand people in their care better, making interactions meaningful and personal. Information standards may seem like a small cog in the wheel of health and care, but they are a critical tool for enabling interoperability between systems and facilitating widespread practice of personalised care that we know will improve care, making it safer and more responsive to the individual.

James Woollard: About Me and the importance of interoperability

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