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Improving the information flow between pharmacies and GPs
Tahmina Rokib, Clinical Lead for Digital Medicines at NHS Digital, talks about how electronic notifications giving details of urgent medication issued by community pharmacies, keep GPs fully informed and patients’ records up-to-date.
27 August 2020
At the start of the coronavirus crisis in March, GP practices faced a major challenge in dealing with its poorly patients. To prevent further spread of the virus, GPs had to ask people to take part in online or telephone consultations rather than physically attend the practice.
As the crisis developed, people were making calls to NHS 111 and then being referred to pharmacies as part of the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service to get urgent medication. This initiative proved invaluable at a time when community pharmacies became the only primary care service to be operating largely business as usual.
However, it was more important than ever for GPs to be kept up-to-date on what medication their patients were receiving so the GPs didn’t re-supply the drugs unnecessarily. GPs had been used to receiving these notifications from pharmacies by either NHSmail, fax or paper. This was an inefficient way of sharing information and meant practice staff had to manually update patients’ records – this took valuable time and was prone to transcribing errors.
Fortunately, a digital solution had been created last Autumn to ensure notifications were shared and received swiftly, accurately, safely and consistently for flu vaccinations administered by community pharmacists.
The new method of digital notifications was implemented for the flu season, initially with one GP system (TPP SystmOne) and one pharmacy system (Pinnacle PharmOutcomes) to ensure GPs knew which patients had received the flu vaccine.
Then, at the beginning of 2020, this initiative expanded to include the notification of urgent supplies of medicines via the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service. This allows patients who have run out of their prescribed medicines to get a supply directly from a community pharmacy if their GP surgery was closed, for example, over the weekend.
Structured information is the key to interoperability.
The task acts as a prompt for the GP to review the information and add a note to the patient’s record where necessary without having to manually process it. This is quicker and consistent with how GPs receive other forms of communication.
All the messages are sent with structured information. Structured information is the key to interoperability. It allows clinical information to flow across care settings and from one system to another seamlessly. The details are in a standardised format and are computer readable. TPP SystmOne can currently consume the structured element of the information, whereas EMIS are still working on this.
The content of the electronic notification is based on the pharmacy information flows data standard developed in partnership with the Professional Record Standards Body (PRSB).
Once added to the patient’s record, the practice can update the patient’s Summary Care Record (SCR) so the information is available to other care providers.
Find out about the use of electronic notifications, which are used to securely share information about the urgent supply of medicines and pharmacy administered flu vaccinations with GP practices.