Birmingham and Solihull Health Information Exchange

Ever wondered why, when you visit your GP or hospital, they can’t see all your health and care information? And why you find yourself having to answer the same old questions over and over – about things like the medicines you take, the treatment you’ve had, and whether or not you have any allergies?

Well, the simple answer is they all use different computer systems to record your details. And because these systems aren’t connected, the health and care organisations looking after you can’t share your information with each other.

But that’s about to change with the introduction of something called the Birmingham and Solihull Health Information Exchange – or HIE.

Our experience of working with COVID-19 has shown how important it is for the health and care professionals caring for a person to be able to see their information without delay. HIE will make a joined-up approach to health and care much more possible.

What is the HIE?

The Health Information Exchange is an electronic record of a person’s care. The difference between this and what already exists is that it will bring together all your separate records into a structured, easy-to-read format.

This will give those professionals directly involved in your care a more complete view of the care and treatment you’ve had across all services.

We know you only want to tell your story and share information once when receiving care from any health or social care organisation across Birmingham and Solihull. That’s why we’ve developed the HIE.

Who will be able to look at my information – and what will they see?

The first phase of the Health Information Exchange will allow health and care professionals directly involved in your care to view appropriate information contained in:

  • your GP practice medical record
  • basic information from secondary care, including hospitals, mental health and community services
  • radiology and pathology results
  • maternity records.

Being able to see this information will help them give you the best care as quickly as possible without having to make phone calls or wait for other organisations to forward details on.

At first, we’ll bring together information from GPs and allow it to be seen by health professionals in the Emergency Departments at hospitals. If needed, we’ll also share it with the Nightingale Hospital (the hospital set up to help manage COVID-19).

We’ll add information from community and social care, ambulance and NHS 111 services over time. We’ll carry on developing the HIE, allowing professionals across more health and social care settings to see information when they need it to support people’s care.

You can rest assured we’ll only allow your records to be seen by health and social care professionals directly involved in your care.

There are strict rules around how we use your information. As part of this work, we’ll make sure it’s managed and shared appropriately and in line with all legal requirements, including the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018. Official inspections, or audits, will check this is the case.

Which organisations are involved?

The organisations currently taking part in the programme are your local health and care services.

What do I need to do?

You don’t need to do anything. The change will happen automatically when we switch on the Health Information Exchange. We’re planning for this to happen in the next few months.

If at any time in the past you’ve objected to sharing your records, you won’t be included in the HIE. Again, that means you don’t need to do anything.

However, if in the past you’ve objected to sharing your records but would now like this to happen through the HIE, then you’ll need to email the HIE central team and also contact any individual services where you’ve previously opted out.

How does having my records shared benefit me?

The benefits to you include:

  • not having to repeat your details every time you need care
  • better and, potentially, faster treatment as the professionals caring for you will be able to quickly see your records
  • not having to explain your social care support to health professionals
  • clinicians being able to see what medications you’re taking, what you’ve taken in the past, and if you have any allergies – making your treatment safer
  • more effective treatment should you need care for COVID-19, thanks to the fast availability of accurate information about any pre-existing conditions you might have and your medications.

Can I say no to this?

You can agree or disagree to share your information at any time. We don’t recommend saying no as information that could be vital when you need health or social care support might not be immediately to hand as a result. However, the decision is entirely yours.

If you don’t want a service that’s giving you care to share the information they hold on you, just tell the staff providing your care.

If you don’t want any of your data to be shared at all, you can email the HIE central team to let them know.

Please be reassured that we take the security of your information very seriously. Only those directly involved in your care at any moment in time will be able to look at your records. This will help them make the right decisions to ensure you receive the best care possible.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

You’ll find more information in the frequently asked questions. These will give you answers to some of the things you might still want to ask. They’ll also cover new developments with the HIE as and when they happen, explaining what these mean for you. We’ll post any new questions or topics at the top.

If you still have questions

If you’re unsure about anything, or have any questions we haven’t answered in the FAQs, please email us.

You can also contact us if you need this information in an alternative format, for example, braille, audio, easy read or your spoken language.

Let us know what you think

If you live in Birmingham or Solihull, we want to hear your views on the Health Information Exchange. You can tell us your concerns, your ideas and your expectations by completing a short survey.

It should take about 10 minutes to read the background information and then another 10 to fill in the survey. You’ll find the survey here. Your feedback is very important to us so please complete the survey by the closing date of Monday 4 January.

When you do the survey, you’ll also get the chance to register your interest in being involved with the HIE as a critical friend – providing feedback and taking part in further surveys as the programme develops. This will help us make sure it works as well as possible for all patients and people who use services.

And keep checking this web page for details of the online events we’re planning. These will be an opportunity to speak in person with members of the HIE programme team.

With technology now central to many improvements to health and social care, we’re working on a number of regional projects to develop and put in place systems to make sure we can share people’s care information safely and effectively. These are:

  • Birmingham and Solihull Health Information Exchange: This will allow sharing of a person’s health and care records with the professionals involved in their direct care, whether that’s in community, primary, mental health, acute or social care services
  • West Midlands Cancer Alliance eMDT Project: This will enable healthcare professionals to share information so they can work together effectively and make the best decisions for patients receiving cancer treatment
  • HDR UK PIONEER Health Data Research Hub: This will bring together information about the hospital stays of seriously ill patients. It aims to carry out research into how they use services such as ambulances and hospitals, helping those services to plan and improve, and develop new treatment options. The HDR UK Pioneer Research Hub is an ethically approved health data research database.

These projects all have the same ambition – to break down traditional barriers to sharing information. In this way, we can learn from each other and make better decisions for all people who use health and care services.