The benefits of integrated data & the barriers to working together
Practices are increasingly overworked and underfunded. The danger is that under pressure, they tend to fall back on anecdote rather than relying on evidence. Together with One Care, we described the opportunity for creating a new way to identify changes that would reduce workload and improve care; to help practices work together by exploring variations and understanding differences.
The project appealed to the wider partners within the STP. The lack of connection between data sets had left earlier draft plans short on real content about general practice, at a time when primary care is crucial to managing increasing demand across the NHS.
Working together to integrate data at all levels sounds simple. But there are barriers. In most places, practices use a range of different IT systems that find it hard to talk to each other. Although we believe this can be addressed, it was fortunate that all the practices used just one IT system, EMIS Web.
One Care had spent a lot of time making information-sharing agreements with each practice. This established the principle of bringing information together across the group. Although each request for more data requires separate permission, it made collaboration easier.
All but two practices agreed to take part in this project. One Care had developed to a point where it had shared analytical resources to support practices, and its analysts could learn from partnering with national experts, building its own skillset.