Practitioners should explain health information governance to patients

Information governance (IG) practitioners in health and social care should try to explain and make IG relevant to their patients

Information governance (IG) practitioners in health and social care should try to explain IG and make it relevant to their patients.

“It’s our duty to make IG relevant to patients, carers and families – otherwise it’s a concept that’s not going to be understood properly,” said Dr Murat Soncul, head of information governance at mental health provider South London and Maudsley Foundation Trust.

Speaking at the BCS National Health IT Conference (HC2014) in Manchester yesterday, Soncul said: “In this age of significant cutbacks, we have a duty to use all the resources available to us.”

Soncul said there are a lot of health and social care resources, but organisations often miss the resource of patient, carer and family.

The trust began work on electronic patient records (ERP) in 2004 and completed its database in 2006. It now has more than 150,000 records on its ERP system.

The ERP system, called My Health Locker, gives patients access to relevant information about their care and treatment.

Soncul said the health records no longer contain so much free text information to wade through. “When patients want to see their health records, they used to face reams of paper and lots of information," he said. "It was quite difficult for any of us to use that information effectively.”

South London and Maudsley Foundation Trust will launch its new IG strategy next week, and Soncul said it is not too different from the strategy in the last five years. “It is based on enabling innovation and finding solutions rather than objections to innovation,” he said.

Soncul said the long-term objective of the health sector is to create an information-sharing environment.

“But there is still an amount of fear among clinicians about sharing information,” he said. “We haven’t had any significant data breaches, but we get things wrong when we don’t share things effectively.”

Not surprisingly, the topic dominating HC2014 this year was the debate.

In January, NHS England announced plans to expand the collection of patient care data from hospitals to include general practices. The aim is to improve research on data related to disease and treatment patterns. But failures to properly educate the public resulted in the scheme being put on hold for six months.

During the HC2014 keynote, NHS England's national director for patients and information, Tim Kelsey, said the reason the NHS had decided to delay was to give the organisation more time for discussion, because it could not guarantee that patient data would be used for the purposes of improving healthcare.

Legislation has recently reached the House of Commons that does provide the statutory guarantee that data would be used for this purpose, said Kelsey.

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