The information sharing platform has bolstered the city’s Covid-19 response and promises much more for health and social care
Manchester has been in a vulnerable position with the spread of Covid-19, and has needed a strong information platform for its health and social care services to support the response.
The area covered by the city council has had some of the worst health outcomes in the UK, according to ICT strategic business partner Ross Milhench: of the people born there just 71% can expect to live more of their lives in good health; it has a high rate of deaths from respiratory diseases; 27,000 people with type 1 and 2 diabetes; and not many self-funders for social care.
But it has had a digital resource in the form of the Manchester Care Record to strengthen information sharing for the integration of care. This has provided the basis for Greater Manchester Care Record, the deployment of which has been accelerated in response to the pandemic, with plans to develop new capabilities.
Milhench presented an overview of the development at the recent UKAuthority Data4Good online conference, sharing the platform with Andy Barrow, chief technology officer of ANS, which has provided cloud consultancy and services to the programme as part of the ‘cloud first’ approach to deployment.
He said that traditionally there have been individual case management systems for the different elements of care, which has created several data entry points – around a dozen in the Manchester City Council area alone - raised barriers to integration and undermined the quality of care. Taking into account the other nine boroughs in the Greater Manchester region the situation becomes more complex, which is what prompted the development of the GM Care Record.
On the journey
“For now it’s sharing data on issues such as patient medication, allergies and test results,” Milhench said. “Sharing that through a shared platform is equipping our health and care professionals with the data they need. We have had the system in place for a couple of years, we’re still on that journey and are continuing its development.
“The most important aspect is that it is led by the practitioners and not the technology or data people. If a GP is leading the charge on this it’s a lot more compelling to other professionals as opposed to if it was led by a techy.”
The system also takes in details of care and treatment plans, with information supplied by GP practices, hospitals, community and mental health services, the North West Ambulance Service and councils’ social care teams. Milhench said it has become recognised as a data aggregation tool that adds huge value to the services.
It has proved its value during the pandemic alongside a case management system, built by ANS, for the local management by Manchester City Council of the Test and Trace programme, pulling together information from local testing centres, clinical commissioning groups and the council. He said this could be developed further as a tool for responding to any future emergencies.
More immediately, there are plans to add more capabilities to the GM Care Record.
“We might as a next step get to things like shared assessment from different professionals,” he said. “There’s currently no easy place to do that, a shared care record is the obvious place and we are exploring that.
“Another key next stage is patient access to records, taking into account what gets shared and how consent will work. It would be great if we could share that record with patients, and better if when they go outside the Greater Manchester region they could take that record with them.”
The platform could also support the deployment of more assistive technology to help older people to continue living at home, in line with a key strategy for the region.
“The technology will enable the deployment of things like wearables and sensors in the home to support independence,” Milhench said. “We’re trialling some of that at moment. Most of the damage from falls is done when people are on the floor for hours in the cold. If they had a sensor or a wearable that alerted social care it could prevent a lengthy stay in hospital.
“But we could have a situation with 50 different tech suppliers and 50 portals, and it’s not realistic for our care professionals to use all of those. We need to look at the challenges around how we aggregate that data in one place for professionals to go to and for residents and their families to go to.”
There are also possibilities for the information to feed into analytics to identify patterns in health issues. Milhench referred to early studies on the correlation between hip replacements and other illnesses, and how the emergence of one could provide an alert on the danger of the other. This relates to work on obtaining data from a wider range of platforms for different types of care, and is feeding into the programme’s work with technology suppliers.
“We’re working on how to extract data in real time, centralise it in a modern data store and correlate with shared care record,” he said.
“Coupling those two data sources is a really powerful tool. That strategy around aggregating data is driving some of suppliers and technology we’re working with.”
The platform will continue to develop and could provide a template for regional care records in other parts of the country. It is an important step forward in the drive to integrate health and social care, and could equip authorities to strengthen their responses to future emergencies.
For the ANS perspective on how the NHS and local government can share data for better healthcare, watch the introductory video here
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