Information standards are essential in order to get the right health data, to the right people, at the right time, wherever this is needed. We use standards every day to communicate data to support the services we provide, and record details of the care undertaken. Information standards are an agreed set of rules, a consistent method or process for capturing, processing, managing and sharing of data and information.
The NHS and other areas of health and social care are now more computerised and there is an increasing need to share a patients’ information across these information technology systems. These systems need to be able to ‘speak’ the same language so that the information provided is correctly and consistently understood by every health or social care provider involved in a patients’ care (Interoperability).
For example, a doctor in the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department of a hospital will share a patient’s diagnosis of a fractured left femur with the patient’s General Practitioner (GP) and perhaps a physiotherapist in another location. The doctor in A&E, the GP and the physiotherapist use different information technology systems, with different ways of recording this data. They all need to communicate securely, using a common terminology so that there is no misinterpretation of who the patient is and what the diagnosis and treatment were.
Patient safety and confidentiality are at the heart of information standards. All patient information needs to be consistently captured, recorded and securely shared within the boundaries of the law.
There are numerous other benefits of using information standards within the health and social care system.
From 1 April 2014 there is a new process for the approval of information standards within health and social care. An overview is available on the NHS Digital (formerly the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC)) website. This process is governed by the Standardisation Committee for Care Information. More information is available on this site on the background to how SCCI came into being and its role. Additional information can also be found in the Frequently Asked Questions.
The SCCI is supported by the NHS England Information Standards Team who provide the secretariat for the Committee, in addition to the teams’ main role of providing advice, support and guidance on progressing information standards and their approval. You can contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.