In November 2016, NHS England and the National Information Board released the new children’s health digital strategy “Healthy Children: Transforming Child Health Information” and I thought “at last!” My first foray into child health was in the national programme as part of the first RiO child health deployments in London. Since then I have gone on to have my own child and be given one of the infamous Red Books – the Personal Child Health Record. Before becoming a parent I assumed things would have moved on. On becoming a parent I realised they were very much the same.
I was excited about getting a red book and imagined it being a lovely record of my daughter’s first year. I quickly realised this was a romantic view. I was too busy with a newborn to use it meaningfully. The Health Visitor captured weight and length when she visited and immunisations were recorded (when I remembered to take the book!) and the rest of the time it lived in a drawer. It wasn’t used when my daughter was rushed to hospital, by ambulance, with breathing difficulties or on the couple of GP visits we took for the usual new parent questions.
When I had general questions about my maternal health or that of my daughter it was far easier to look at digital information on my phone than dig out the book. I already had a couple of apps that I regularly used and viewing information on my phone while holding a baby, was much easier than trying to hold and read a paper book. My other parent friends said the same.
The aim of the red book is a good one, it is just that the delivery method is outdated. We must have a single source of truth about every child. We must have a way for all child health events to be captured and viewed by the necessary professionals and the parents. We need to make sure every child, mother and carer gets the same universal support.
Digital Child Health Records
I was lucky enough to have been involved in one of the child health strategy development days back in 2016. The room was full of passionate child health professionals who were genuinely excited that digital child health records were finally firmly on the agenda. While enthusiasm levels were high, they were also realistic about the task at hand and the amount of work it would take to deliver the strategy’s vision. As with all IT projects, implementation success is dependent on the underlying relationships and cross-organisational working. They understood that this project is more than just systems and IT interoperability, it’s about a coming together of organisations to change self-implemented boundaries, creating new models of working and a commitment to making this work.
The task ahead is a big one. Child health professionals and parents alike are keen to make this a reality. I hope the other key players feel the same and together we can positively impact the child health of the future.
What do you think about the digitisation of child care information? Feel free to leave a comment below.
Sarah Boyd, change practitioner and associate delivery consultant at Ideal.