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Connecting Care uses new API for drug prescriptions


A care interoperability programme in the Bristol has begun to use a new API to help staff in prescribing with opioid substitution therapy (OST) drugs to homeless and vulnerable people.

The Connecting Care Interoperability Programme has begun to use its first Care Connect FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) API to help identify people who can have the prescription for OST drugs.

It links Bristol City Council’s Theseus drug and alcohol system with Orion Health's integrated digital care record

The API was developed to reduce the risk of duplicate prescriptions being issued for controlled drugs.

Dr Mike Taylor, lead GP at The Homeless Health Service in Bristol, said: “GPs working ‘in hours’ or ‘out of hours’ now have a reliable, quick, efficient way of knowing whether the patient in front of them is receiving opiate substitutes from drug workers outside practice based care.

“Clinicians in hospitals can also be aware of this source of prescription. This has real potential for saving lives and reducing drug related deaths.”

National first

The link also makes NHS South Central and West Commissioning Support Unit (SCW), which supports Connecting Care, one of the first organisations nationally to use the Care Connect FHIR APIs championed by NHS Digital and the INTEROPen forum.

NHS England commissioned the development of Care Connect APIs to make it easier for health and care services systems to share information, using HL7 FHIR, a new standard for exchanging healthcare information electronically.

Emlyn Jones, technical lead for the Connecting Care programme said: “Our long term goal is to create a consolidated list of medications for each patient, and this is the first step in doing that. So, we were looking for an interface that we could re-use, and the FHIR profiles felt like a good fit.

“We spend a lot of time in the tech community talking about FHIR, and this seemed like a good opportunity to try it. FHIR is polished by being used. By doing things, we get them right.”

To support timely availability of the OST medications, the Theseus system presents Connecting Care with an API that the Orion Health Clinical Portal calls to find out if a listed patient has been prescribed controlled drugs.

Simplification effort

The Care Connect FHIR API initiative was started in 2016 as part of the effort by the INTEROPen forum to build interoperability in healthcare. Its aim is to create nationally defined HL7 FHIR resources and interaction patterns, to simplify integration and interoperability within UK health and social care.

NHS Digital is supporting INTEROPen to foster collaboration between industry, standards bodies, informaticians, terminologists and health and care providers to define FHIR resources tailored to the NHS which support interoperability between health and care systems.

Connecting Care is one of the longest running and most extensive integrated digital care records in the country, used by about 6,000 professionals working in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

Image by jfcherry, CC BY-SA 2.0 through flickr

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