One of the questions that comes up all the time is about how we capture and share the benefits of sharing information. Having evidence of what the benefits could be is pretty vital when it comes to persuading people to invest money or to spend the time and effort making it happen. Yet, as one of the new case studies on the website shows, it isn’t as straightforward as it might be. The new case study – of the Hampshire Health Record – outlines the development of an integrated electronic record for health and care in Hampshire, which can be used by clinicians (doctors, pharmacists, social workers) to help them make better decisions for the service user. The HHR also brings benefits, by enabling those planning and commissioning services to understand the patterns of usage by particular cohorts, in order to shape how services are designed and delivered.
The HHR team gathered some great stories of what the benefits of introducing the record have been – from tales of lives saved, to services being used more appropriately and the right medications being prescribed. But in the current financial climate, the more evidence you can offer, the better, so the Board have agreed a workstream designed specifically to capture the benefits systematically. The benefits may be cashable – such as the reduced costs of printing and postage, which often characterises how information is shared in health settings. They may be financial benefits which aren’t directly cashable, such as the reduction in time an individual spends in hospital, when they can be discharged to an appropriate care setting. And importantly, benefits around the improved quality of services are also being measured, such as patient satisfaction.
This is just one example of how a local area is trying to capture all the possible benefits of better information sharing. There have also been a couple of national reports recently considering the same issues.
Published back in the summer, the Home Office’s early findings report on the Multi Agency Working and Information Sharing project highlights some of the benefits that are arising from better collaboration, particularly in multi agency safeguarding hubs. Although it is hard to separate out the contribution of information sharing (as it is an enabler of collaboration), these are some of the benefits that have been identified:
- More robust decision making among professionals because decisions are made based on sufficient, accurate and timely intelligence.
- Working together avoids duplication of process across agencies. Greater efficiencies in process can mean re-allocation of resources to other areas.
- A reduction in repeat referrals and cases ending in ‘no further action’ through earlier sharing of information leading to earlier intervention in cases.
- Better Information sharing across partners – enables better safeguarding of the children and young people involved as concerns which initially appear to be of a low level when seen in isolation, are sometimes recognised as part of a long standing pattern of abuse and neglect which needs a response when information is pooled together.
- Improved knowledge management – partner organisations (and the staff within them) develop a better understanding of the work undertaken by each organisation.
- Reduces the risk of ‘borderline cases’ slipping through the net without any action being taken.
And just a few weeks ago, more evidence of the benefits of information sharing was seen in the Communities and Local Government Select Committee’s report on Community Budgets. The report found that
Community Budgets are already demonstrating, through joint working between agencies and local and central government, the clear potential to facilitate cheaper and more integrated public services. They can also be used to make public services more effective by focusing on the specific needs of local areas and individual service users.
The report also highlighted the role of information sharing at each stage of the process – from understand need, to delivering the service, to evaluating progress:
Data collected on public services — before and after the introduction of a community budget — will play a crucial role in persuading local partner agencies and central departments to invest their limited resources in Community Budgets. In addition, data sharing between agencies will be essential to enable the creation of whole-family facing services where people who require services from a range of agencies do not have to repeatedly fill in forms provided by different agencies that seem unable to share information securely between themselves, in the process wasting effort and resource.
In the coming months, we will be adding to the tools on the site which can help to identify and capture the benefits of information sharing, as the information sharing initiatives progress and evidence begins to emerge. Do you have a good example of how to realise and present the benefits? If so, why not get in touch to share your story?