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Stockport Council reveals plan for prototype of digital hospital discharge system

Nurse with elderly female hospital patient
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Stockport Council has begun work on the prototype of a hospital discharge tool aimed at ensuring a smoother transfer of patients who need social care.

Craig Hughes, the council’s head of data, reported on the progress with the project – which has received £82,000 in funding from the Local Digital Fund – at the first-day session of UKAuthority’s Integrating Digital Health and Care conference yesterday.

The project is aimed at overcoming a major problem in improving the process for hospitals to discharge patients into social care and overcome the problem of ‘bed blocking’ by those for whom arrangements have not been made.

“There has been a lot of process mapping and workshops, working with colleagues across Stockport and the other localities, aimed at getting everyone on the same page it terms of what the process looks like,” he said.

“It has been more complicated than expected, and taken time to get the process agreed, but we are there now. We have identified the data leads for each stage of the process and have been working with them to figure out what data exists, how it is structured, the quality, how it is updated, and is it at a patient or client level or is it an aggregate?

“We’ve now identified the strengths and weaknesses for each part of the process, with all the data we need in some areas and others less so, and identified where we need to focus on the crossover between hospital and care home.

“We can now start looking at the design of the prototype and get that out for people to see.”

Digitising data transfer

The early design of the prototype reflects the current transfer of a hospital’s planned discharge data to a care hub; but it involves replacing the manual transfer of data for one of four care pathways – for home support, care packages, care and nursing homes – with a digital system in which the data is in a standardised format.

This would be supported by providing care and nursing homes with a digital tool to capture the required data and support operational decision making.

All of the data would be brought together between the pathways and the care hub where it could provide a whole system view of capacity and demand. – potentially with a dashboard for a “single version of truth” as Hughes described it.

He said the project is underpinned by development principles of user input and collaborative working, a strong emphasis on data ethics and information governance, open source and iterative development, working with existing systems and sharing in the open.

The next steps are to review any existing solutions to see the basic challenge, or parts of it, have been solved elsewhere.

Existing solutions?

“We’re working with other councils and hospitals to see if there are solutions in place we can learn from, or copy and paste, even if it is for part of the process,” Hughes said. “We need to cross-reference to see if our processes and data are similar.

“We also need to join up with our colleagues in the integrated care system.”

He added that once the range of issues had been resolved Stockport could submit a bid for up to £350,000 in further funding to further develop the prototype.

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