Two London trusts have become the first in UK to establish data sharing between their Cerner Health Information Exchanges, covering a population of 1.3 million people.

Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Barts Health NHS Trust went live on with the connection 12 July, with clinicians in both acute hospitals able to view a summarised care record from the other site.  

The visible information for each trust includes discharge summaries, diagnosis, medications, investigations and results.

Niall Canavan, Homerton Hospital’s director of information technology, said the next step was “to open this data to any contributing partner organisation in east London”.

Charles Gutteridge, Barts’ chief clinical information officer, said the move had been “relatively simple to do, as Homerton also used the Cerner Millennium system, but a really big step forward”.

“It speeds up and makes the process of care for the patient more efficient.”

There were “reasonably well developed plans” to link mental health services in east London into the exchange and “less well developed plans but some good discussions happening” with social care services, he said.

There were also early plans to connect HIE systems up with some other local commissioners and with Queen’s Hospital in Romford. If that occurred it would create “an east London health record system with summarised views and in the future exchange of data for about 2.5 million people”, he said.

Barts’ chief information officer, Sarah Jensen, told Digital Health News in May that many people were watching the exchange project closely as it will be the first time two UK health information exchanges have been linked.

Justin Whatling, vice president of population health at Cerner UK, said he was “delighted” with progress the two trusts had made in sharing data and contributing towards connecting care across broader London.

“As patients are seen across care networks in London the linkage of regional HIEs is of critical importance.”

As well as sharing between hospitals, there are also HIE sharing mechanisms between the acute trusts and primary providers in their area. City and Hackney GPs connect with Homerton, and Newham, Waltham Forest and Tower Hamlets GPs are linked into Barts.

The latest usage figures from Barts show hospital clinicians and GPs used the HIE to access records nearly 5000 times in the course of a week. 

Barts was the first English trust to go live with Cerner’s HIE in late 2013 and 141 out of 143 GP practices have since signed up to share information.

The information was shared with the acute trust via Healthcare Gateway’s Medical Interoperability Gateway, and provides hospital clinicians with a summary of a patient’s GP record, held in Emis Web.

Currently Barts GPs cannot see data from Homerton hospital, or vice versa. Gutteridge said this was “not a technical issue, but a data sharing and consent issue”, with new information sharing agreement needed to make the link. 

In the future, Gutteridge said he aimed to push “true interoperability” further. Currently, clinicians can view real time data but cannot add this directly into the trust’s electronic health record, something he hopes to change.

The ability to share information was particularly helpful in east London where practices experienced a 20% turnover every year.