Clinical patient discharge summaries to be sent electronically to GPs

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Clinical patient discharge summaries will soon be sent electronically to GPs from hospitals in England following a successful trial.

The first of its kind trial at Dorset County Hospital saw more than 4,000 structure Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) messages sent to four GP practices, including outpatient letters, emergency care and inpatient discharge summaries.

It was run in with NHS Digital and TPP working with healthcare integration company Independent Systems Integrators.

The pilot aims to save GPs time in processing and clarifying patient information, allowing them to track changes and take necessary actions.

For example, it allows GPS to update information when a new or alternative medication has been prescribed for the patient, or action an onward referral request.

The system will also notify hospitals when messages have been delivered and have been actioned. It’s hoped it will reduce paper use, postal costs and time re-typing information into computer systems.

Traditionally GPs manually enter information from patient discharge letters into GP systems, taking up valuable admin time. National transfer of care messages allow for the data to be easily extracted straight into GP computer systems.

Andrew Meyer, director of platforms at NHS Digital, said: “Improving transfers of care between hospitals and GP practices is a vitally important step to enhance patient care across different health and care settings.

“We have come a long way from the early days of sending discharge information through the post, fax and even email to now providing a standardised and reliable service.

“Hospital staff can be reassured that the messages they send to GP practices have been delivered, read and acted upon, without the need to follow up with telephone calls.

“Interoperability between different systems is key to reaching this target and we aim to work with other trusts and GP suppliers to ensure that all GP computer systems can send and receive transfer of care messages in the near future.”

Messages were sent using the Message Exchange for Social Care and Health (MESH) and were built to HL7 FHIR standards, giving hospitals the possibility to send files that are much bigger than could be sent through email.

Hospitals will also be able to send messages containing standardised coded clinical terminology.

Dr John Parry, clinical director of TPP, said: “The interoperability we have achieved here is an essential step in the right direction to make all communication into General Practice digital.”

NHS Digital is working with mental health trusts to develop a first of type for mental health inpatient discharge notices.

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