The subject of death and how we experience it as individuals, families and a society, is a challenging one for many of us. But although the fact of death is an unescapable and sometimes uncomfortable truth, the last few years have seen a marked transition in how we approach and deal with death as a society and as a health and care system.
Conversations about death are emerging out of the shadows and the focus is increasingly on enabling people to die well, with their wishes and those of their loved ones, respected.
So, what role can technology play in how we support people who are approaching the end of their life?
Surely, end-of-life care is about conversations and relationships, not about computers. Of course that is true: end-of-life care is about understanding and being able to act on the wishes and preferences of people at the most difficult point in their lives.
However, it’s also true that people who are at the end of life are looked after by many health and care professionals in different settings, including their GP, hospital team, hospice, community nursing team, as well as social care, out-of-hours providers and emergency services.
All of these organisations use different software, with sharing between the different systems very difficult. The question we faced was: how do we share the latest wishes of a person between all of these different health and care settings in a safe, up-to-date and patient-focused way?
In Humber, Coast and Vale we have used EPaCCS (Electronic Palliative Care Coordination System) to provide a solution to these challenges. EPaCCS enables the recording and sharing of a patient’s care preferences and key details about their care at the end of life, including their preferred place of care and death, the circumstances under which they’d want to be admitted to hospital, whether they would want CPR to be attempted and details about their medications.
EPaCCS was initially rolled out in Vale of York, Scarborough and Ryedale and North Lincolnshire and after a successful pilot EPaCCS is now being extended across Humber, Coast and Vale.
The EPaCCS solution has been instrumental in supporting the coordination of care during the Covid-19 pandemic, when there has been a major focus on advanced care planning for vulnerable patients. EPaCCS has provided a solution to share patients’ end-of-life care preferences and plans in real-time between the different health and care providers looking after them.
To date, over 3,500 EPaCCS records have been created in Humber, COast and Vale and the solution is enabling collaborative working to support end-of-life patients, reducing duplication and ensuring that the most up-to-date view of a patients’ preferences and status are visible and updatable across different health and care settings.
EPaCCS is about putting the wishes of the patient at the centre of care and supporting people approaching the end of life, their families, carers and the clinicians that look after them. The innovative introduction of this digital solution has been recognised as best practice and has been published as a national NHS Blueprint that shares our experience and approach with other parts of the country.
The HCV Partnership digital team hosted an online webinar last week to educate colleagues about EPaCCS, and the progress in rolling it out across the Humber, Coast and Vale geography. The webinar can be viewed here.