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IET makes five recommendations for interoperability in care

Crystal ball and stethoscope on laptop
Image source: Equipment

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has identified five critical elements needed to achieve digital interoperability in health and social care.

It has published a report, The Digital Advantage, which looks at the difficulties in achieving interoperability in health and social care and analyses accomplishments to date through a series of case studies.

It also looks at the next set of interoperability challenges that need to be overcome and the steps that should be taken to get there.

The report provides five recommendations for the Government, including the introduction of legislation to underwrite agreed national data standards and mandate NHS organisations and social care bodies to use them for patient records.

This should be accompanied by extending the 2024 deadline for NHS trusts to achieve a core level of digitisation to take account of the delays from the Covid-19 pandemic, and the publication of a technology implementation plan for care with measurable actions and clear milestones for interoperability.

The other recommendations are to provide seed funding for accelerated trials of the Trusted Research Environment model, and the commissioning of a data security team to help NHS trusts meet the Cyber Essentials Plus standard.

Methodology through framework

Professor Peter Bannister, executive chair, IET healthcare sector, said: “Until recently, healthcare interoperability has been regarded as a goal in and of itself but, as this report highlights, it is more correctly viewed as a methodology which can be delivered through a framework of governance, standards, skills and best practice to enable integrated, patient-centric care while also allowing for rapid adaptation in a truly agile manner to respond to global pandemics.

“Interoperability goes beyond healthcare systems being able to share information; it necessitates a robust, trustworthy approach to patient data handling and its implementation needs to be considered in the context of equitable health and care provision to prevent situations where large disparities can quickly arise between siloed systems and their respective patient populations.”

Expressing support for the report, by Dr Lisa Cameron MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Health, said: “Shared health record systems have to conform to the UK’s strong legal protections for patient confidentiality and link up technologies developed within a complex network of organisational silos.”

She added: “There must be robust protections for patient confidentiality; national data and content standards; localised delivery of integrated patient records; and development of the health informatics profession and I support the IET’s work in this area.”

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