The benefits of sharing medical records was the theme of a Digital Health Networks event held in Maidenhead today (5 November).

Organised by Thames Valley and Surrey Care Records and Digital Health Networks, the event sought to explore how the real benefits from sharing data could be harvested.

The slogan for the day was “Accelerate, Enable and Disrupt to Innovate”.

Thames Valley and Surrey was one of the five first-wave Local Health and Care Record Exemplar sites announced in 2018, with Graphnet later selected to provide a new region-wide shared record platform and population health system.

Fiona Edwards, CEO at Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and lead for the Frimley Integrated Care System (ICS), kicked off the day setting out the “data story” in the Thames Valley.

Edwards described the current picture in the region, emphasising that “information is limited because of fragile systems”.

She concluded that despite the emphasis on the data, it is critical to ensure people were at the heart of shared records.

“To really mobilise the great work of shared records, using data and using technology, you have to put people first,” she said.

Next up was Julie Fisher, senior responsible officer for the Thames Valley and Surrey Local Health and Care Records Partnership, who echoed the need to get patients involved in their health care.

Fisher said at the heart of the shared record was the aim of “linking up data and sharing data across regions so residents can benefit from joined up care”.

There is more to shared care records than data sharing, Fisher argued, adding that they can help drive innovation and research analysis. However, the quality of the data is crucial.

“To be successful, we have to get the richness of the data,” she concluded.

Another speaker on the day was John Farenden, senior programme lead for the Local Health and Care Records Programme at NHSX, who provided a national perspective on shared records.

He said the role of national bodies, like NHSX, should be to set the standards and frameworks.

Calling himself an “X-man in LHCR”, Farenden asserted myths around data sharing had to be quashed.

“We need to bust the myth that we can’t share information. We can, but we must do it in a responsible way”, said Farenden.

Digital Health’s next regional event will be held on 29 November.