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NHS 'needs interoperability implementation plan'



College of Medicine update on sustainable healthcare calls for greater alignment of relevant workstreams

The NHS has been urged to develop and fund an implementation plan to ensure its IT systems are fully interoperable by 2020.

Healthcare charity the College of Medicine has made the call in the first annual update report on its Roadmap for Sustainable Healthcare, compiled with pharmaceutical R&D company AbbVie.

In the chapter on digital technology, it says that healthcare staff have to be able access patient records in different care settings, and that it is urgent to ensure that NHS systems “are able to talk to each other”.

It acknowledges that the NHS National Information Board (NIB) has some relevant workstreams, but says they have to be aligned to ensure the health service meets the targets of removing paper records by 2018 and for all patient and care records to be digital and interoperable by 2020.

Subsequently, it requires an implementation plan, although the report provides no further detail on the level of funding and how it should be implemented.

The Five Year Forward View of the NHS, published in October 2014, acknowledged the importance of interoperability between digital systems, and in August of this year the IT industry association techUK published an Interoperability Charter to encourage suppliers to support integration.

Apps approval

The College of Medicine report also expresses support for the NIB’s plan to develop a list of NHS endorsed healthcare apps for patients.

This follows the closure in October of the Health Apps Library on the NHS Choices website, which had been subject to concerns over data protection. The NIB has been working on an assessment model for patient apps.

The report also says that patients need to be able to navigate the healthcare system more easily, and that they should be able to access and co-manage their records, and allow them to be accessed by other care workers when appropriate.

“Roll out of electronic patient records has long been talked about,” it says. “However, rhetoric now needs to turn into reality – and in line with the ambitious but achievable three year timeline.”

One of the targets is that patients will be able to access their GP records and appointment history online and through mobile devices by 2018.

Director's support

Dr Martin McShane, NHS England’s director for long term conditions, has expressed his support for the report.

“It will help create a far more sustainable NHS by moving care upstream, by moving the focus towards individuals, communities, prevention and pro-active care,” he said.

Earlier this week, Baroness Lane Fox, who has led a commission on digital technology in the NHS advocated an increase in take-up of internet enabled services in healthcare. She also recommended that doctors should actively recommend the use of online tools such as apps for patients to manage their health, and that at least 10% of registered patients in each GP practice should be using a digital service such as online appointment booking, repeat prescriptions and access to records by 2017.





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