Serving more than 700,000 patients in the East of England, Lincolnshire Health and Care (LHAC) combines 13 health and social care organizations, including mental health and community services. LHAC’s Gary James explains how the county’s new integrated Care Portal system, based on InterSystems HealthShare®, is helping transform healthcare for an aging and widely dispersed population.

Gary JamesWhy introduce the Care Portal now?
The challenges we are facing today in Lincolnshire are similar to those of health systems around the world. We need to deliver sustainable services for a rapidly aging population.

Almost 10 percent of the county is more than 75 years old. More than 14 percent of our population lives in some of England’s poorest areas, where lifestyle conditions like heart disease and diabetes are forcing us to reconsider how and where we deliver services. And like many providers, we’re working within increasingly stretched budgets.

We need to provide high-quality patient care while also delivering effciencies, but be intelligent about changing services. Making arbitrary cuts often creates new problems, so we’re taking a different approach – putting information sharing at the heart of our plans.

How will a shared record transform clinical care?
Some of our GP practices report more than 15 percent prevalence of diabetes, with patients regularly moving among different healthcare providers. As a result, patient data could be fragmented even in the same hospital, where there can be up to 50 data sources. When we look at the health and social care environment in the county, there are potentially hundreds of data sources.

The Lincolnshire Care Portal sits outside organizational silos. It is an end-to-end system where clinicians across Lincolnshire view the entire patient journey through a shared care record in real time, including current prescriptions and medical history.

But will the new portal save money?
The driving force for LHAC is to identify programs that will both improve outcomes and save money. We estimate that we will save up to £23 million ($24 million) over five years – in part by avoiding duplicate tests and X-rays.

More importantly, a majority of the savings will be in time rather than cash. For example, a hospital pharmacist can take up to 30 minutes to review a patient’s current and past drug regimen. With the Care Portal, this can be done in seconds.

Clearly these effciencies will have a monetary value, but more importantly, the system frees the clinician to treat more patients, while also improving performance. We expect it to have a huge impact supporting shared care planning for conditions like diabetes or end-of-life care, where multidisciplinary teams are involved.

On its own, the Care Portal is unlikely to completely transform the way we work. But we view it as an important first step toward achieving our shared vision for LHAC.

What is that vision?
One of the most important challenges for local healthcare organizations is to work together. The structure of our LHAC partnership enables us to create systemwide strategy change with clinicians at the center. Our own research and key policy drivers highlight how a shared care record reduces risk, improves decision-making and helps avoid duplication and waste.

Also, we want patients to do more than consent to their information being shared by healthcare professionals. Our aim is to involve patients in their own care. In the future, the new system will include an online portal giving patients access to their health information across multiple care providers. In time, they will also be able to share their records with friends, family, and caregivers.

It’s easy to get carried away with possibilities. In developing the Care Portal, we’re investing in our system, our staff, and our patients. In so many cases, the drive to save money can result in declining standards of care. In Lincolnshire, we are confident that our shared care record will enable us to establish a more joined up, sustainable health and care system.