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International Patient Summary (IPS) & the Impact on Patient Care Across Borders 

By Stephen Ridley, Lead Technical Solutions Architect at Alcidion

For anyone who has travelled, you will be familiar with the concerns of being injured or ill overseas and having to depend on a foreign healthcare system. Imagine a scenario where you’re in a foreign country with your family, and suddenly your 13-year-old child falls ill. You take them to a local healthcare facility and whilst navigating the complexities of an unfamiliar system, you realise the care team have no access to your child’s medical history. It’s a common and concerning scenario, one that underscores the challenges faced by patients, families, and clinicians when essential health information is not readily available. 

IPS’athon 

This year at Digital Health Week in Hamilton, New Zealand, the workshops held as a part of the IPS’athon discussed scenarios just like the one described above. Attendees were able to develop patient summary use cases and tools that enable consumers to tell their health story in digital form, architect the perfect solution to populating the patient summary from multiple systems of record, and more.  

The highlight of this event for me was the merging of technical and clinical minds. It is easy to become hyper-focused on the features and functions of a solution; however, ensuring it effectively meets a clinical need requires insights and continuous feedback from the user’s perspective. The collaborative environment in Hamilton allowed software developers and service designers to identify the necessary improvements in their solution offerings to better cater to the needs of both healthcare providers and patients. 

IPS Unpacked 

So, what exactly is IPS? The International Patient Summary is a standard in healthcare that provides a common format to exchange information such as patient demographics, allergies, medications, vital signs, and more. The ultimate goal is to enhance the continuity of care, ensuring that healthcare providers have immediate access to relevant patient information, particularly in situations where individuals seek medical attention in different countries or healthcare systems. 

IPS Composition

Figure 1. Global standard for the information in the IPS 

The resurgence of this concept can be attributed to the COVID-19 vaccine cards and passports that provide health officials with a QR code, enabling them to access a patient’s vaccination history quickly and securely. IPS takes this concept to the next level, specifically addressing the challenge clinicians face when caring for patients without direct access to their records. Patients also gain a better understanding of how the system is trying to take care of them, and so does their family.  

Some countries are expanding the information compiled in the IPS to allow for more targeted healthcare approaches. For instance, the New Zealand Patient Summary (NZPS) can support data on a patient’s smoking and vaping habits to help with the goal of NZ becoming smokefree, as well as the most recent hospital encounter. Down the road, NZPS is looking to include information documented from the patient about their goals and desired health outcomes. This not only empowers the patient to actively participate in their care experience, but also allows healthcare providers to personalise the encounter.    

Smart Solutions for Clinicians with IPS 

Alcidion is in a unique position to support this agenda. All of the information compiled in an IPS is represented as a FHIR resource – essentially one big JSON file. Our flagship product, Miya Precision, is a FHIR-events platform that has been built from the ground up to standardise and store data in a FHIR format, facilitate clinical workflows, and enable real-time exchange of data. 

With this foundation, our technical teams can optimise our solutions to support the use of IPS. Take for instance, our Patient Flow solution, that enables medical staff to create a summary of the care encounter using the patient discharge summary function. As a part of this process, we can create an IPS that would then be sent to the patient or their nominated care provider via email. This can be incorporated in a variety of settings including patient discharge, virtual care, emergency department admissions, and more to support local and international patients that visit different providers whose systems may not be connected.   

Whether you’re traveling from the U.K. to Australia and receiving care, the South to the North Island of New Zealand, or simply different providers within your home city, the IPS ensures key information follows the patient to support continuity of care regardless of geographic boundaries.  

The IPS standard is poised to break down borders and address the challenges associated with inaccessible medical records. The collaborative environment fostered at this year’s IPS’athon highlights the importance of merging technical and clinical expertise to develop solutions that further this agenda and effectively meet the needs of patients, their families, and clinicians.