A user’s perspective of an integrated service will help make sense of its information needs

Stephen Curtis, Director
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing

I recently attended the International Care Models Conference, in which Health and Social Care Pioneers heard about five inspirational international care models.

The stories about these new models of care included some fascinating and supportive approaches to providing health and social care. For example, one presenter told of a man who kept missing important appointments and ended up in hospital. Service providers recognised that by visiting the man in his home and understanding more about his needs, they were able to provide him with the support he really needed so he no longer missed appointments.

Those presenting also talked about the changing operational cultures. In one example, service providers had adopted open plan offices and co-located teams that brought together the GP, health and care workers, mental health services and physiotherapists, who worked seamlessly together to support people. In another example, the ‘front desk’ had been removed to provide direct access to the team who supported services users. Much greater emphasis had also been placed on self and peer support, with examples of starting community based support networks to improve outcomes.

So, what is the link with information sharing? Well, all the presenters talked about information sharing, and the following important lessons about successful information sharing came out of their presentations:

  • There is an expectation from people that in an integrated delivery model, information about them will be shared.
  • The models are not about all information being available to everyone, and there are examples in the videos of working with communities to develop a granular ‘matrix’ of information that will be shared between different functions.
  • Shared data is vitally important to the models in order to be able to innovate and adapt services to meet people’s needs, and to assess the impact of specific initiatives.
  • The work on information sharing must go hand in hand with change.
  • Knowing what an integrated service looks like – and feels like from the service user’s perspective – helps make sense of the information needs of the service, and why information sharing is important.

This last point is key and watching the presentations underlines this. The following considerations also arise:

Firstly, by understanding the vision, it is possible to start to fill in some of the detail and identify the work that is needed to support the integrated services of the future. The matrix of information sharing is a good example of this.

Secondly, it is important to involve frontline services in designing information needs. Information sharing is inextricably linked with the future design of the service, and designing the information needs for supporting people must be done by those who understand the services through working closely with partners.

Of course change is always messy and it is unlikely that there will be a clear vision of the future in any one area that is available off the shelf. It always involves a lot more iteration. But for me, these presentations underline why it is always important to keep coming back to the question of ‘why are we doing this?’, and use this to drive information sharing needs to support improved outcomes.