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DHCW works on digital design and data standards for integrated care in Wales

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Digital Health and Care Wales (DHCW) is working on a national digital design and set of data standards to support the integration of health and social care in the country.

Its director of primary, community care and mental health digital services, Sam Hall, outlined the initiative at UKAuthority’s Integrating Digital Health and Care conference yesterday, describing the goal as “automagicing” the flow of data.

She said this derives from problems such as the limited sharing of data between health and social care, the lack of a national digital design or data standards for community services delivered by integrated teams, and data gaps at regional and national level.

“Data is moving around but it’s often not in the right place at the right time, and the flow of information does not happen automatically,” she said, adding that a major barrier is the big administrative burden in collecting the same data for different administrative tasks.

In response, DHCW is leading the development of the digital design and data standards for information sharing, and for the information to populate a national database and provide insights into various services. This will cover social care, mental health services, community nursing and allied health professionals.

System agnostic

“We need to speak to one another in ways that are recognisable across boundaries, so there is a need for a system agnostic approach in which we capture data from a myriad of tools,” Hall said.

She said the programme involves six steps, beginning with bringing together practitioners, service leads and support staff to explore where there is scope for standardisation and set out ambitions. This is followed by asking the participants to review the conclusions with their regional teams to ensure they are achievable, then staging a series of workshops to further refine the process.

This should lead to a provisional sign-off for the design and standards with scope for minor changes, then building them into the Welsh Community Care Information System to be tested internally then used in a pilot project. Finally, it will be signed off with a governance structure to mandate national implementation, something Hall described as “no mean feat even in a relatively small country”.

She did not put forward a timescale for the programme and acknowledged there are a number of areas in which the digital elements are currently lacking; but said that when each stage is completed it will provide lessons and “a degree of recyclability across the components developed”.

Accuracy and easy use

One of the underlying priorities is to ensure the design ensures the accuracy of the data and is easy for people at all stages to use.

The expected benefits include that any data will only have to be entered once for use many times, it will support a better integrated approach to delivering care, and provide more scope for analysis of data in social care.

“We also believe developing national designs that can be adopted locally is much better than trying to create lots of local designs then cobbling them together,” Hall said. “Most importantly, people we care for are seldom looked after by one single component of the health and care system.”

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