NHS issues guidance on using instant messaging tools and more UK digital health news briefs

Also: study looks at the impact of breast cancer screening programme; NHS trust implements Cerner Ignite APIs for Millennium.
By Leontina Postelnicu
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New guidance for NHS staff on using instant messaging services during emergencies. NHS England, NHS Digital, Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care have issued new guidance to help staff securely use instant messaging tools in acute clinical settings during emergency situations.

NHS consultant anaesthetist Dr Helgi Johannsson set up a major incident instant messaging group to coordinate a hospital’s response to the Grenfell Tower fire in London in which 72 people died in 2017, after the Westminster terror attack from March the same year, in which five people were killed. According to the new guidance, staff should only use apps and messaging tools that meet the NHS encryption standard, disable notifications on a device’s lock-screen to protect data privacy, and delete notes once they have been been added to a patient’s medical record.

“Fully encrypted instant messaging services can be a particularly useful communication tool in delivering care to people during a major incident," said Dr Johannsson. “From the Westminster attack we learnt it was important not to overload the emergency care co-ordinators with offers of help, so with Grenfell we used instant messaging to help coordinate which staff should come in, who was needed where and plan the service for later on that day which vastly improved the care we were able to provide."
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Breast screening linked to 60 per cent lower risk of death from breast cancer in new research. A study from Queen Mary University of London and the American Cancer Society has found that women taking part in a breast cancer screening programme that were later diagnosed with breast cancer had a 60 per cent lower risk of dying within 10 years after diagnosis, and a 47 per cent risk within 20 years, compared to those that did not participate. The research, published in the society’s , was based on the data of more than 52,000 women in Sweden aged 40 to 69 years old, from 1977, when the programme started in the Dalarna County, to 2015.

“Recent improvements in treatments have led to reduced deaths from breast cancer. However, these new results demonstrate the vital role that screening also has to play, giving women a much greater benefit from modern treatments,” said Professor Stephen Duffy, senior author of the study, from the Queen Mary Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine.

In the UK, former Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt launched an inquiry earlier this year after Public Health England discovered that 450,000 women missed their breast cancer screenings from 2009 to 2018 due to a computer algorithm failure uncovered in January. PHE analysis later indicated that up to 75 women might have had their lives shortened as a result. An independent review investigating the failure is due to report back this month.
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NHS trust implements Cerner Ignite APIs for Millennium. Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) has implemented SMART on FHIR APIs within its Cerner Millennium Electronic Patient Record platform, developed by HL7 and deployed by Cerner through the company’s open developer experience programme. OUH is believed to be the first organisation outside the US to implement the Cerner Ignite APIs for the EPR, which is currently used by 22 trusts in the UK. 

“Our recent go-live with the APIs is just the first landmark in this ongoing project, and while there is still a lot to be done, it was certainly a huge step towards our vision of delivering and developing excellence and value in patient care,” said Dr Paul Altmann, OUH Chief Clinical Information Officer.

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