An April 2016 report from Rodgers et al, highlights the fact that individuals who live with mental health conditions have a lower life expectancy and poorer physical health outcomes, compared to the general population. This, they say, is attributed to a combination of clinical risk factors, socioeconomic factors and health system factors.
According to Rogers et al (2016) a number of reviews have been conducted to determine ways in which physical and mental health care for people with severe mental illness (SMI) can be integrated. The authors say it is important that these efforts to improve the physical health care of people with SMI also empower people (staff, and service users) and help remove everyday barriers to delivering and accessing integrated care.
“To properly integrate care, the Mental Health Foundation inquiry identified the need for a compatible information system within and across different care organisations that could establish individual electronic records of service users’ integrated health and social care needs and interventions. The proposed system would also have the ability to anonymise and aggregate health and social care records to inform a needs assessment of the local population,” notes Rogers et al (2016).
The report goes on; “One of the quality indicators in the General Medical Services contract is the establishment and maintenance of a register of people with SMI. It also requires the establishment of a comprehensive care plan and recording of physical health-related measures (e.g. blood pressure, alcohol consumption, cervical screening, lithium monitoring) for a defined proportion of SMI service users. The collection and maintenance of such information necessarily requires an adequate information technology (IT) infrastructure.”
Additionally Rogers et al (2016) state that the most commonly reported technological barrier to the integration of physical and mental health care is the failure to accurately and effectively share service user data between providers.
Indeed these information technology gaps are ones which we at AssessPatients, along with our partners; the EQUIP Research Centre of the University of Manchester’s School of Nursing Midwifery and Social Work; aim to address through our recently launched Communi-Care project.
Communi-Care is an ehealth software development project which initially began in January 2016 in order to meet the unfulfilled care planning needs of individuals living with mental health problems. [Click HERE for further information on Communi-Care.] Further, understanding the significant difference which a more patient centered health care approach can make; and agreeing with the points made by Rogers et al; one specific aim of the Communi-Care project is to create a care planning software which will empower the person with mental care needs to help themselves and their carers get more from the care planning process to improve their quality of life.
Additionally with statistics and reviews indicating the relationship between mental health conditions and poorer physical health, specific care outcome planning and tracking features related to physical health will be incorporated in the Communi-Care software in order to encourage the person with care needs to be more aware of their physical health and to factor it into the care regime with the help of their carer.
Using the “outcomes” feature of the software application, mental health professionals and carers will be able to work with the person living with a mental health condition to encourage and track their physical health needs, to set physical health goals and devise a plan of action to achieve those goals; all included in the individual’s care plan.
Phase 1 of the Communi-Care project was completed with in April 2016 with the following deliverables;
- A software demo
- A set of user stories reflecting the needs of people, carers and care professionals
- A business case outlining the benefits of the Communi-Care solution
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Rodgers, M; Dalton, J; Harden, M; and Parker, G. (2016). Integrated Care to Address the Physical Health Needs of People with Severe Mental Illness: A Rapid Review. Health Services and Delivery Research. Volume 4. Issue 13.