Using patient records to improve care

by Heidi Wright, Practice and Policy Lead, RPS England

Over 95% of community pharmacies in England now have access to the Summary Care Record (SCR) which is a real achievement.

Community pharmacists are using the record to provide better, safer patient care, particularly in areas such as emergency supply of medicines, queries around repeat medicines and supporting patients in care homes, especially when discharged from hospital. But access to the SCR is only the first step.

Configuring the future

The RPS and other organisations are working closely with NHS Digital to outline what a standardised community pharmacy dataset could look like in the future. Such a dataset would enable community pharmacists to refer people to other healthcare professionals, share information about actions they have taken and also to receive patient referrals.

We want pharmacists IT systems to be able to ‘talk to’ other primary care IT systems – the buzzword is ‘interoperability’ – in order to optimise use of medicines and deliver better integrated patient care through access to one shared patient record.

What would this mean in practice?  

In terms of referrals to community pharmacy, it would mean that hospitals would be able to notify community pharmacists of changes to a patient’s medicine on discharge. This is already being enabled in areas across the country, but having a portal through which information could be shared would make this process much easier and more efficient.

It would also enable GPs to refer patients to a community pharmacist for the New Medicine Service or a Medicines Use Review. Community pharmacists would also be able to let other healthcare professionals know about actions they have taken. They could notify the GP that they have given a flu vaccination to avoid potential duplication; they could let a GP know that not to prescribe a particular medicine that month as the patient has stockpiled that medicine in their home; and they could let GPs know about medicines that the person buys over the counter – which could obviously have an impact on the medicines prescribed.

As community pharmacists take on more management of patients with long term conditions they could have better access to diagnosis, test results and could ensure any monitoring they undertake in the pharmacy is also recorded and shared. They could also refer directly to specialists in secondary care if they have concerns over a patient’s symptoms or response to treatment.

The future’s bright

Having an interoperable system across the different sectors of healthcare will enable better sharing of information and make the NHS safer for patients and more efficient – a truly exciting prospect.

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