Encompass is a regional initiative across Health and Social Care to introduce an integrated digital patient record, instantly accessible for everyone in Northern Ireland.
It’s where all medical notes will be made, medicines prescribed, tests ordered and referrals made and received.
Patients (and their carers) will be able to book appointments, review test results, and communicate with those providing their care.
Currently we use lots of different IT systems which are old and need replaced. By bringing the information together in one shared record staff will be able to securely access, record and share information in real time.
It will reduce duplication, help allocate resources appropriately and improve the quality of patient care.
Rather than continuing to rely on paper records and replacing outdated technology system by system this is an opportunity to better use the investment needed in technology to transform the way we care for people in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland has always been at the forefront of using information technology for the best clinical care. We currently use a system called ECR which allows us to see patient information from a lot of different systems. But while it’s been a success, we still rely on paper to make notes.
Some of our systems are very old – 30 years in some instances – and they need to be replaced. The world’s best healthcare providers all have wraparound electronic health record at their centre. We want to be a global exemplar of digital. We want the best for our population and, in today’s world, that requires world class digital systems based around patients and support clinicians.
While we have tried to keep up with these advances we need new underpinning technology to foster further development and put Northern Ireland on the right footing for the future. Encompass is the solution.
All IT systems are at risk of cyber-attack. But we already know that paper isn’t safe, either in terms of security or patients’ safety.
We are working with the world’s best technology companies who have implemented patient systems all over the world.
The information collected about patients is their information; we need their permission to look after it, as well as them.
Only staff directly involved in their care will be able to access their record. We have robust security access terms so only authorised people will be able to use the system. We want to use the system to learn from what happens to people we care for so that we can provide the best care available in the future. The system will help identify those at risk, and allow for screening among others in the population with similar conditions.
The information collected can be confidential and still used to help us deliver better services. The goal is better, safer care for everyone.
This is undoubtedly a major investment and over time it will give us a better understanding of how we spend money in healthcare, helping us to measure outcomes and better target where we spend money throughout health and social care.
Whilst technology will never replace the compassion and dedicated service of staff right across our acute and community services, Encompass will offer us many opportunities to improve the way we do things and give our patients and clients the best possible care. It will help facilitate different ways to care for people, allowing more care to be given out of hospitals, accelerating treatment pathways and reducing the risk of harm to patients.
It will make it easier for healthcare staff to make the right decisions, based on the best evidence at their fingertips.
When it’s implemented and working the system will improve efficiency for patients. It will reduce the duplication of tests, letters and X-rays. Patients will be able to see and change bookings, make appointments and select the method they prefer. This includes phone, video or virtual appointments.
Initially the system will allow patients to book appointments, order prescriptions and view simple test results. However, we would like to develop the system in the future so that patients can view their entire medical record, if they wish. They are their notes and we want patients to understand their condition.
It is hard to imagine how we can seek to achieve the ambition set out by the Bengoa report without a digital platform upon which to build new ways of working and pathways. It will be the system upon which we will note all care, prescribe all medicines, order all tests and communicate with patients. It is the quiet partner of transformation, helping people to deliver care to people seamlessly and without interruption.