Somerset Council becomes first local authority to go live with EPR system
County council deploys Rio Cloud Electronic Patient Record solution to support public health services
Somerset County Council (SCC) has gone live with the Rio Electronic Patient Record (EPR) system, making it the first local authority in England to deploy an EPR.
The system is being used to support public health nurses to deliver effective care to children and families in Somerset, improve public health, and reduce health inequalities.
The council provides public health nursing services, which involves health visiting and school nursing, to 110,000 children in Somerset.
And the introduction of Rio EPR, which is provided by Access HSC, will improve the efficiency of the service, making use of real-time data to enhance the local authority’s Healthy Child Programme provision.
The system will automate many aspects of the care planning process, from appointment booking to birth registrations to caseload allocation.
Local authorities would usually deploy non-clinical care planning solutions, but SCC selected an EPR as it will enable the organisation to extract and utilise more-valuable data, informing the commissioning of services.
By improving the overall efficiency of the service, families can access public nursing services more quickly, getting the support they need sooner so they’re less likely to need as much support later on in life
Sarah Bourne, children’s nurse and clinical lead for the project at SCC, said: “It’s unprecedented for a local authority to provide nursing services like this, so we needed a system that was designed to meet our needs so we can best serve the children and families of Somerset.
“The system is connected to the NHS Spine, which means we have full visibility of all new births in the county when they happen, as well as receiving notifications when children move to the area, so their care can be administered as quickly as possible and we can deliver the best services and protect those who are most vulnerable.”
Falling through the cracks
The public health nursing service is responsible for delivering more than 30,000 mandated health visits per year, which are now being administered and tracked through the EPR system.
“Being able to input data and access the patient record in real time will enable us to make more-effective and timely decisions about the support they receive”, said Bourne.
“A recent Ofsted and CQC inspection left inspectors impressed by how robust the system was, as it prevents children from falling through the cracks of manual tracking processes.”
We expect this will have a great impact on reducing health inequalities, as more parents will be engaged with the service from an earlier stage in their child’s development
Rio will enable the council to identify where demand for services is higher, so the 150 public health nursing practitioners can be allocated more appropriately through data-backed decision making, enabling more-timely intervention.
“Delayed intervention is a major contributor to health inequalities” explains Rachael Parker, head of public health operations at the council.
“By improving the overall efficiency of the service, families can access public nursing services more quickly, getting the support they need sooner so they’re less likely to need as much support later on in life”.
The data being stored in the EPR will also be used to shape future services.
Parker said: “We will be able to look more closely at the different interventions offered to individuals and identify levels of service need on a more-granular, local population level, which will help to shape future public health services and make sure they are serving our population as fully as possible.”
Working closely with Access HSC, SCC was able to configure the system to its specific needs, such as activating an integrated text messaging service to allow parents to book, cancel, and reschedule visits, meaning more visits are conducted.
It just goes to show how important it is to be open minded and to think in innovative ways, as it can have such a positive impact on services
“This functionality is really helping us to fulfil our goals of early intervention, as families are more engaged with the service,” said Parker.
“We expect this will have a great impact on reducing health inequalities, as more parents will be engaged with the service from an earlier stage in their child’s development.”
Now all staff are fully trained to use the system, they are able to draw insights from the data they are inputting, such as understanding where there are the greatest levels of need and what types of interventions are needed.
The service also intends to leverage the data inputted into Rio to inform future services and continue improving public health of the children.
Steve Sawyer, managing director at Access HSC, said: “Supporting Somerset Council on this unique journey has been inspiring.
“It just goes to show how important it is to be open minded and to think in innovative ways, as it can have such a positive impact on services.
“It’s never easy to be the first to try something new, and we’re so pleased that it has been a success.”