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NHS gets new standard for data sharing between pharmacies and GPs


Mark Say Managing Editor

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NHS Digital and the Professional Record Standards Body (PRSB) have published a new standard for sharing clinical information between community pharmacies and GP practices.

It will cover information that community pharmacists gather from patients when providing services such as vaccinations, medications and guidance for treating minor ailments.

NHS Digital said it is expected to cut medication errors, improve patient safety and reduce administrative work for staff. It should also help to provide high quality data for service planning, commissioning organisations and public health programmes by standardising vaccination information.

The move is the latest step in the organisation’s creation of standards to support data sharing in healthcare. Last month it published a draft technology standards framework to improve the interoperability of digital systems and outline expectations around data and design.

The first part of the new standard details what information should be recorded about vaccinations administered and emergency medicines supplied by community pharmacies.

FHIR role

This can be implemented by community pharmacies and GP practices using Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) – a standard for the digital exchange of healthcare information so that it can be generated by one system, and then read and understood by another.

NHS Digital has developed the data standards into FHIR message definitions, which are now available to GP and pharmacy clinical system suppliers in developing their systems so that they can send or receive the structured information.

It is also working with the suppliers to start implementation in their systems. The pilot phase will begin in early 2019, with roll out anticipated by the end of that year.

PRSB has indicated that it will follow this up by working on data standards for medication reviews, appliance use review, new medicine services, digital minor illness referral schemes, and hospital discharge summaries to community pharmacies.

Vital move

Stephen Goundrey-Smith, PRSB advisory board member for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: “Pharmacists are offering an increased range of services. As these services expand further, it will become increasingly important for pharmacists to share vital information about patient care with GPs.

“By doing this digitally, we can ensure that care professionals have timely access to relevant information, leading to better, safer and more personalised care.

“This sharing of data will also demonstrate the value of pharmacists’ professional input into patient care.”

Dr Vishen Ramkisson, senior clinical lead for Medicines and Pharmacy at NHS Digital, said: “The data standard is the first step towards ensuring relevant information about services provided by community pharmacies can be shared digitally with other health professionals so that patients’ health records are complete and comprehensive.

“Ensuring IT systems across the NHS can securely share information in a common language is key to this, and we hope that GP and pharmacy IT suppliers choose to develop their systems to use this new standard.”

The alpha FHIR profiles are available from here.

Image (amended) by grassrootsgrounds, CC BY 2.0 through flickr

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