Posted by: Tony Shannon | May 31, 2015

Plain English Guide to Information Sharing

One of the challenges I see in my work across healthcare, management and technology is the varied languages that these varied professionals and disciplines bring to the table when trying to work together. I’ve written before about the need for some of us to work across boundaries and work towards a common language if we are to collaborate on challenges such as healthcare improvement together.

The challenge of improving health and social care services to citizens and patients is all around, yet one of the particular aspects to that challenge which might surprise you is that around information sharing.

You may/may not be surprised to discover that healthcare organisations have a tendency to work in siloes, where teams can work in isolation from each other, with varied processes and disparate information technology that does not connect. So the citizen/patient has to navigate the healthcare “system” by themselves and they get confused/bewildered when they are asked the same questions again and again, see that services are not well integrated, find that information about their care does not flow seamlessly around the “system”.


A key part of the problem has been the reluctance to share information about the patient between differing parts of the healthcare system, ie Primary Care (your GP), the Hospital (the Emergency Department or clinic or ward) , the Specialist … then with limited information sharing between these siloes it results in delays/duplication/errors in patients care.
Of course most patients assume that information about their care could/should/does flow between these healthcare providers… yet part of the current problem is that some healthcare providers are overly protective of this information, suggesting that they should own/guard/control patients information and quickly cite concerns about information sharing, when in many cases that attitude is simply holding healthcare improvement back. Indeed there are increasing calls that the only way to resolve this is to put the patient in charge of their own information, which is certainly likely to be the medium/long term answer, especially for this digital generation, though will take time to unfold.


Meanwhile of course there are many good reasons why we have to be careful about information sharing in health care and so the specialist field of information governance has arisen to craft related good practice in this area. However for many people the language of information governance bewilders and confuses them too.

So as a part of the Ripple Community effort I’ve been involved with crafting a “Plain English Guide to Information Sharing“. Using a  Who, Where, What, Why, When  and How  approach, the idea was to craft some material that makes this issue a whole lot easier for people to understand and help to eliminate some of the unnecessary confusion in this field.

There are clear moves now to actively encourage health and care professionals in better information sharing in the best interests of improved patient care across the globe.

Hopefully this Plain English Guide to Information Sharing can help.



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