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December 15, 2018
Interoperability: Igniting the open healthcare revolution
By: Guy Player

A renaissance of technology innovation is underway and has the potential to drive open healthcare in the NHS. In my view, the focus on regional healthcare delivery through Integrated Care Systems, supported by regional investments in technology, such as the Local Health and Care Record Exemplars, has created an environment where digital investments can reduce information siloes and ultimately benefit staff and patients. Take a look at the Health Secretary’s recently released future of healthcare vision. What better statement of intent for the digital transformation of our health system? Open APIs, and a subsequent swathe of new digital health technology, are the not-so-coincidental results.

With any highly federated organisation, there is a risk of duplicate investment and it is vital that local lessons, solutions and innovations are leveraged across the health system. To optimise innovation, I believe it needs to be planned regionally, supported through greater co-ordination and service redesign. Too much attachment to the status quo will stifle innovation by making it too difficult for innovators to be successful and disrupt traditional healthcare delivery models. Open healthcare would be hamstrung before it even started to walk.

Interoperability will, of course, be crucial to the success of this regional transformation, and open data and technology standards will be foundational components of this work. The move towards a modular ecosystem of digital services is an admirable one, however it could be a long road ahead given the historic investments in ‘enterprise’ clinical information systems. To support this modularisation, the NHS must reconsider how to drive uptake of open standards but also look at additional national services. Development of scalable, open APIs which can be leveraged across the health system will support this modularisation strategy, reduce design debt and deviation from the standards. It would provide a consistent approach to accessing national digital services, could transform the way that the NHS collects data and would enable the appropriate use of health data to accelerate research on the effectiveness of new interventions.

Interoperability is the ‘key to the kingdom’ of open healthcare. With the right strategic investments over the next few years, this can be unlocked to accelerate innovation and transform the way that health services are delivered in the NHS. Got any thoughts? Get in touch, I welcome your views.

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