Wales has started piloting a GP2GP service to digitally transfer a patient’s record from one medical practice to another.
According to NHS Wales Informatics Service, the first digital medical record transfer was successfully completed in July between two GP surgeries in Cardiff and took around 30 minutes.
The pilot is set to run another six months and is being managed in collaboration with INPS, the system supplier for GPs in Wales.
NHS Wales Informatics Service is hoping the system can replace the current process for moving a patient’s GP record, which involves the previous practice printing it out and sending a paper copy to the new practice.
This can take weeks to complete as the new practice has to summarise and type in the information onto its own system.
If the pilot is successful the service plans to expand to more practices, with a focus on areas with a high volume of patient transfers between neighbouring areas.
A GP2GP transfer service was one of the early priorities of England's National Programme for IT.
Large scale transfers took place as early as 2007, although it took a number of years for these to happen between all of the major IT systems in use in GP practices, because of coding issues.
According to the Health and Social Care Information Centre, more than 5.1 million records have been transfered using GP2GP since 2007, and 90% of new patients joinng a GP practice in England can now expect their electronic health records to be transferred using the service.
The HSCIC is now working on a GP2GP version 2.2, which will introduce benefits such as the ability to transfer and receive larger files and a note for the sending practice on what has been successfully received and integrated by the new practice.
This should reduce the amount of material that has to be printed out and sent on with the 'Lloyd George envelope', which still has to be sent because it contains historical paper information, and any correspondence not inlcuded in the GP2GP transfer.
In another IT development for Wales, NHS Wales Informatics Service has said Microsoft Lync is being made available to Welsh health boards to enable video conferencing and instant messaging between professionals.
NHS staff in Wales can already make audio and conference calls using the Welsh Health Video Service, but this is limited to providing internal calls within NHS Wales.
With Microsoft Lync, users will be able to contact external organisations, such as community services, care homes, charities, and include them in conference calls.
NHS Wales Informatics Service also suggests that clinicians can include patients in calls as well, provided they have a broadband connection.
To support the service, the Welsh Government's Health Technologies and Telecare Fund is funding a central infrastructure to support 12,000 Lync users across organisations in NHS Wales, with the potential to scale up to include additional users.
For the immediate future Microsoft Lync will be deployed alongside the Welsh Health Video Service and users will be able to contact people on either system. However, it is expected that Microsoft Lync will eventually replace Welsh Health Video Service outright.
Microsoft Lync has also been confirmed as one of the features of the new NHSmail service for NHS England, which is provided by Accenture.