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Health services must make better use of patient information

NHS organisations still failing to meet information governance standards

OnMedica staff

Monday, 21 September 2009

Healthcare organisations must make better use of the patient information so care can be shaped to the individual needs of each patient.  

A new report by the Care Quality Commission looked at how healthcare organisations manage personal data and found that healthcare organisations generally did not systematically use the non-clinical information they collected on patients to tailor healthcare services to the needs of individual patients.

The study found that in March 2009, some 70% of NHS trusts did not meet all the 25 information governance requirements set out in the Government’s NHS Operating Framework 2009/2010.

And it found that performance in primary care and ambulance trusts was ‘generally lower’ than in hospitals and mental health trusts.

It was particularly concerned that 22 out of 152 PCTs (14%) and two out of 11 ambulance trusts were unable to comply with at least one of the basic information governance standards for more than one year between 2006/7 and 2007/8.

Of staff surveyed over 80% were confident that patients’ information was treated confidentially in their organisation. However patients did not seem to share the same degree of confidence with 30% of patients responding to surveys saying they were not always given enough privacy when they discussed their condition or treatment.      

The notable exceptions were found in mental health providers. Deficiencies in the way in which personal information is handled can result in poor patient care, including delays in access to care (through missed appointments), loss of privacy and independence.   

The report says that sharing personal information effectively is a fundamental part of an integrated healthcare system.  The study found that healthcare organisations supported this in principle, but there were ‘technical and cultural barriers’ to sharing patient information between healthcare and social care settings.

The regulator found that the basic systems for managing personal information in healthcare organisations have improved in the last three years, especially in light of concerns about the security of personal information.  

However, more progress needs to be made to ensure that all healthcare organisations meet the Government’s expectations and priorities for managing health information.

The report calls for healthcare organisations to monitor both the quality and timeliness of patient data.  It also highlights the need to align the systems used to collect and analyse data from NHS and independent sector health organisations so that patients have comparable accurate information to help them make healthcare choices.  

Cynthia Bower, CQC chief executive, said: ‘Healthcare organisations handle huge amounts of personal information about patients and staff every day.  It is crucial to the delivery of high quality care that this is done well ’.

‘Although there have been improvements in the systems to keep information secure, we are calling for more focus and action on ensuring that personal information is of high quality, that it is shared effectively with the right people, at the right time so that care is truly joined up and tailored to patient’s needs.’

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