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NHS Digital sets out data standards

18/10/18

Mark Say Managing Editor

Healthcare organisations have been urged to use APIs in line with Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR) standards and the Data Security Protection Toolkit (DSTP) in their digital services.

Stethoscope on keyboard

The measures are among those in a draft technology standards framework published by NHS Digital in support of the Government’s new vision document for healthcare technology.

They have been put forward as a route to improve interoperability of NHS systems, and to outline expectations around data and design standards.

With the vision document placing an emphasis on the importance of open APIs, the standards framework says they should be in line with FHIR, which has been developed by the Health Level 7 group and are regarded internationally as the main guide for developments.

NHS Digital has already created constrained FHIR profiles in the form of the Care Connect and Transfers of Care specifications, which outline the profiles of clinical concepts.

Data security should rely heavily on the 10 principles of the DSTP, which is set to be updated in April 2019 with the elements of the Government’s Minimum Cyber Security Standards that are not yet incorporated. It will be tested with users beforehand.

Among the other standards are that patient records for all care settings must use the NHS Number wherever possible; information in electronic health records should comply with NHS clinical information standards; and all health software must be developed and operated in line with clinical safety standards.

Future log-ins

The draft also sets out a future requirement that logging into NHS systems should be through approved NHS Login and NHS Identity platforms. These are not yet in live operation.

Detailed specifications for each of the standards will be published over the coming weeks, beginning with those for clinical data.

Writing in the report’s foreword, Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock says: “This sets a new bar for quality and efficiency. Our new standards will be demanding and much work will be necessary across all NHS organisations and within supplier communities to move quickly towards achieving these higher expectations.”

He adds that NHS Improvement will take account of trusts’ compliance with the standards, and that: “As we see migration towards standards, we will quickly see an increase in our ability to share data across the system, an increase in our ability to analyse and drive insights from the huge amount of data we hold across the system, and an ability to procure and redeploy technology with greater efficiency and at lower cost than has ever been possible historically.”

Image from Wales Audit Office

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