West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group (WNCCG) is implementing a cutting-edge smartcard technology that will give patients more control over their healthcare – and is expected to be the first in the country to pilot this scheme in partnership with care homes.

The project will see elderly patients in West Norfolk given patient passports which will empower them to create personalised care plans and give permission to their extended healthcare teams to access their medical records safely, securely and efficiently. This will enable better coordinated patient care and prevent unnecessary hospital stays.

The West Norfolk smartcard scheme is being driven by WNCCG and other West Norfolk Alliance members as part of the campaign to fully integrate health and care services across the system.

The scheme will enable health and care professionals from across West Norfolk to access patient records – strictly with the individual’s consent – in order to improve the assessment and clinical management of elderly patients initially in residential care home settings.

The electronic patient passports will support the delivery of the Triage (Targeting a Reduction in Admissions from Geriatric Emergencies) Project which aims to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions for elderly people by using a virtual triage team to assess and support patients.

GP practices, Community Services, Ambulance and A&E staff at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust will be able to use a secure web-based software tool called Eclipse to identify patients who are at risk of an emergency admission.

The information will enable health professionals to manage these patients more proactively and in keeping with their personalised care-plan. The system identifies patients at risk from their medications or lack of monitoring and those that may benefit from enlisting extra support for them at home.

The system will be used to access key information to try to prevent non-elective admissions for elderly patients who have explicitly consented to share their records.

West Norfolk has chosen a system that is focused on maximising the confidentiality of patients. Patients can decide what information is shared and who they are happy to access their electronic summary. They also have access to a log of exactly who has accessed their record at what time and for what information. Individual patient records might include details of diseases or conditions such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other long term conditions.

The project has been funded with NHS England winter pressure monies distributed through the West Norfolk Urgent Care Board and will be evaluated in the autumn in terms of its key objectives, clinical outcomes and value for money.

The patient passports will allow access to essential aspects of people’s medical records such as:

• Clinical conditions
• Medications and allergies
• Blood results and investigations undertaken
• Health plans

Dr Julian Brown, Senior Partner at Litcham Health Centre, who is leading the project said: “This West Norfolk smartcard project is an exciting, innovative scheme which aims to provide improved patient empowerment, better integration of the healthcare services delivered to elderly patients and a reduction in unnecessary hospital admissions.

“The Eclipse software, coupled with these new patient passports, will put people in control of their healthcare, allowing their plans to be implemented and empowering them to decide which information is passed on to healthcare professionals.

“Improving communication and sharing information between organisations will help patients promote their own health and wellbeing, identify their own needs and be assisted to have greater control over, and responsibility for, the support and services provided.”

Benefits of the patient passport include:

• Allows doctors to access details about a patient’s clinical conditions, medications and allergies, blood results, investigations undertaken and healthcare plans
• Increases patient safety
• Reduces risk of medical errors
• Enables improved tracking and monitoring of each patient’s medical conditions

Dr Robert Florance, Emergency Care consultant at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn, said: “This will help to break down the barriers to accessing patient health information.

“Patients often think that we can see their GP records and that their GP can see their hospital records but usually they can’t.

“A succinct summary and plan can mean that someone looking after a patient who is not their GP or nurse will be able to understand better their medical problems, medicines and what is in place to help manage them.

“This is particularly important as many people are now living healthier lives with several long-term conditions.

“Sometimes even when they are well patients find it hard to remember what conditions they have, medicines they are on and services they receive and care that is in place. When they are ill it is even more difficult.”

Dr Sue Crossman, Chief Officer of WNCCG, said: “The smartcard project provides an opportunity to significantly improve the current patient experience and quality of care.

“Patients tell us time and time again that they do not want to repeat their medical history to various different health and care professionals. They want to tell their story once and get the help they need, not just be referred on. This project will help address this challenge head on.

“We want to assure people that their medical records will only be shared if they have given their express consent and to stress that patients are under no obligation to take part in this project if they do not wish to. The benefits of taking part, however, will be significant and will result in improved joined-up healthcare for local people.”

The Eclipse software was recommended for use by NHS England in their recent Any Town Toolkit. NHS England has advised CCGs to use this software to reduce the number of preventable deaths from medication-related incidents. West Norfolk is leading the way in implementing its use across our region.

Governance and security of information is paramount to the system and access is via approved users. A full audit path of each record, when and by whom it is accessed, is available to see against individual records.

It enables integrated care specialists to track all their patients within the community, GPs are able to discuss cases directly with specialists and community staff are fully informed. Patients have access to their health summary, can generate self-management plans and interact with their health care team.

The smartcard project and other areas of work aimed at improving healthcare in West Norfolk will be on display at WNCCGs first Annual General Meeting which takes place at King’s Lynn Corn Exchange on Thursday, July 31, at 9.30am.