Emis and TPP have signed a data sharing agreement to enable direct interoperability between their clinical systems, with pilot sites set to trial information sharing within three months.
The companies say the move is part of an effort to help deliver more integrated patient care across multiple settings and address a growing need for interoperability.
The companies’ primary care IT systems, Emis Web and SystmOne, hold GP records for the majority of the UK population, while their solutions are also starting to spread across other care settings including community services and some hospitals.
Solent NHS Trust and Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust have both recently chosen TPP for mental health, while Emis won two Southern community contracts last August at North Somerset Community Partnership and Sirona Care and Health in South Gloucestershire, both community interest companies.
The new agreement will see the implementation of a phased programme of work to enable clinicians using one system to ‘call’ a patient’s record directly from the other, as well as sending data back into that system to record the consultation or treatment given.
Emis and TPP said the agreement will be of greatest benefit for out of hours care services and GP federations, while it will also support new models of care being promoted by NHS England.
Dr John Parry, TPP’s clinical director, told EHI News that both companies had wanted to work more closely “over the last umpteen years” but have only recently found the impetus to move ahead.
“There has been a desire to get this interoperability sorted out…but now the stars have aligned so we can move this project forward.”
Chris Spencer, chief executive of Emis, told EHI News that the growth of GP federations and the focus on open interfaces in the new GP Systems of Choice framework had both helped to speed up progress.
“There have been some major changes in the healthcare landscape…and I think now is the right time to do this.”
Parry said the agreement will benefit areas with disparate systems in use by allowing them to view records from each system.
“A lot of community staff are using SystmOne, but their GPs have a mixture of SystmOne and Emis Web, so this will mean they’re able to see everything – and we’re talking about a real-time scenario, so this will greatly improve communication around patients with long-term conditions seeing multiple providers.”
Spencer said the main challenge will be “joining up the language” of the two different systems to ensure that data fields match up.
The companies are also planning to deliver functionality to support cross-organisational working, such as shared tasks and shared appointment booking.
Parry said the two companies held their first technical meeting yesterday to discuss the agreement, with plans to test information sharing at a number of pilot sites within three months ahead of a national roll-out.
Geoff Schrecker, chairman of the Emis National User Group, described the deal as “a fundamental step forward for joining up patient care”, while Hazel Chappell, chairwoman of the SystmOne National User Group, said it is “a fantastic development for the integration of care across all NHS organisations”.
“In an era of new care models and collaborative working, it will be transformational for the way healthcare professionals share information about their patients,” Chappell said.