Using digital and data to integrate care

In this blog series on the Integration White Paper, we look at the key commitments made on digital and data. These are set out at section four of the Paper (pages 41– 48).

The summary section explains that joining up data and information is central to integrating services – and supporting that is the requirement that when several organisations are involved in meeting the needs of one person, the data and information required to support them should be available in one place. This ambition closely aligns with the programme of work that techUK is undertaking on interoperability which is focused on joining up health and care data.

A key ambition is to ensure that data and information flows seamlessly across the health and social care sectors (this is a commitment set out in the draft Data Strategy for Health and Care, a final version is expected in early 2022). To support this, every health and adult social care provider within an ICS must reach a minimum level of digital maturity, with these providers connected to a shared care record for individuals by 2024. A set of standards for adult social care, co-designed with the sector, will enable providers across the NHS and adult social care to share information. This the White Paper explains will allow ‘place boards’ or their equivalents and ICSs to plan, commission and deliver shared outcomes.

There are some interesting statistics and figures in the Paper, such as:

  • all but one ICS have basic shared care records in place
  • 60% of Trusts have made good progress into digitisation with 21% digitally mature 
  • only 40% of social care providers have electronic care records. This leads to the statement that there is still work to be done to bring all organisations up to the minimum level of maturity

A number of actions are set out on digital and data for ICSs which we outline below. These include:

  • By June 2022, ICS digital investment plans need to be finalised which include the steps being taken locally to support digital inclusion.
  • By 2022, one million people will be supported by digitally enabled care pathways at home
  • By December 2022, consolidation of existing social care terminology standards
  • By March 2024, to achieve 80% adoption of digital social care records among CQC-registered social care providers, with ICSs working with partners to drive adoption.
  • By March 2024, over 20% of care homes will have acoustic monitoring solutions or equivalent care tech in place
  • By 2024, ICSs will need to ensure that all constituent organisations have a base level of digital capabilities and are connected to a shared care record enabling individuals, their approved caregivers and their care team to view and contribute to the record
  • By 2025, each ICS will implement a population health platform with care coordination functionality, that uses joined up data to support planning, proactive population health management and precision public health

The end game is to connect data from every health and adult social care provider to provide a near real-time picture of NHS care, sharing consistent data at ICS, region and national levels to enable transformation of care pathways. Mandatory reporting of outcomes for local places, for citizens is stated to be at the heart of everything.

The approach is ICS first. This means encouraging organisations within an ICS to use the same digital care systems. Where necessary the Department of Health and Social Care will intervene with ICS and vendors, including by setting conditions of funding, producing guidance, providing support, encouraging disruption and leveraging other allies.

A few observations

Ensuring all organisations meet a minimum level of digital maturity is a welcome commitment but as NHS Confederation, in its briefing on the White Paper, point out that while organisations and ICSs adopt the What Good Looks Like framework, it is important to acknowledge that systems are still operating at varying stages of maturity. NHS Confederation suggest that “To meet minimum standards a single clear framework for all organisations working together sharing digital technology and data should be made possible.” Supporting this, NHS Confederation further comment that there is a need for “clear routes of funding from an easy to navigate stream which systems can access… and the need for transparency and clear procurement frameworks.”

As we have mentioned at the outset, securing a clear set of interoperability standards is also key to systems working together irrespective of how digitally mature they are.

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