An NHS Digital service which enables information about flu vaccinations to be sent electronically from pharmacies to GP practices has been rolled out by two system suppliers.
More than 30,000 electronic messages carrying flu vaccine information have been sent during this winter’s flu season so far. NHS Digital has said that this has saved time for GP practices and pharmacies helped to improve data quality and reduced the possibility of errors.
Information is more up to date because it can be received by GP systems and added to the patient’s medical record as soon as the notification is received from the pharmacy. This prevents patients who have already had a flu vaccine from being contacted unnecessarily and could be used to identify those in at-risk groups who haven’t had their vaccine.
A pilot of the initiative took place in Leeds in October involving 113 community pharmacies using PharmOutcomes and 83 GP practices using SystmOne. During the two-week pilot, 2,500 messages were electronically transferred.
The way pharmacists record flu vaccinations in PharmOutcomes will not change. The system will check whether the patient’s GP practice can receive the new message type before sending it. If the electronic notification cannot be received, the system will automatically revert to the existing process.
GPs will still receive the full details of the vaccination in a PDF document and can add any additional information to the patient record manually as appropriate. In the unlikely event that the electronic message cannot be sent, pharmacies may revert to their existing processes, so GPs should continue to check for notifications received via NHSmail, fax or post.
The service was then expanded across England for pharmacies and GPs using PharmOutcomes and SystmOne over the following two months. Other suppliers will start their roll out later this year, following similar pilot schemes.
The content of the electronic notification is based on the pharmacy information flows data standard3 developed in partnership with the Professional Record Standards Body (PRSB). The PRSB worked with clinicians, key stakeholders and professional bodies to develop and endorse the clinical standard, which ensures the right information about vaccinations, the emergency supply of medicines and other community pharmacy services is shared with GPs.
The PRSB pharmacy information flows data standard is here. NHS Digital has developed technical standards using a clinical language called SNOMED CT to ensure messages can be accurately and safely shared between systems. These technical standards are known as FHIR standards.
Vishen Ramkisson, a GP and senior clinical lead at NHS Digital, said:
“This is a valuable enhancement which helps ensure the information in patients’ medical records is comprehensive and up to date. Services which make it easier for health professionals to share critical information, such as about whether a vaccination has been given, enable them to provide the best care possible to patients.”
Professor Maureen Baker, chair of the Professional Record Standards Body – which collaborated on the project – said:
“The Leeds pilot is an early example of the benefits of digital information sharing between GPs and pharmacies that our standards help to deliver. For GPs, getting up to date information about patient’s pharmacy treatments is key to their ongoing care. And sharing the information digitally saves GPs’ precious time, while making care better and safer.”
Annelie Laidler, Software Developer and Interoperability Lead at TPP, which supplies SystmOne, said:
“It’s fantastic to see structured data being shared via open technical standards. The transfer of seasonal vaccinations from pharmacies directly into the GP record is vital for patient safety and public health. It’s been great to work closely with Pinnacle, the pharmacy supplier, and with NHS Digital. This is another important step forward for the national interoperability agenda.”
Drew Clarke, Software Development Lead at Pinnacle Health Partnership, which supplies PharmOutcomes, said:
“This valuable message transfer project ultimately leads to increased data quality, which is a great step forward in further reducing the clinical risk associated with the transfer of patient data. The initiative has been thoroughly planned and conscientiously executed by everyone involved – I look forward to more opportunities for integrated working.”