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NHS Transformation releases draft strategy for interoperability in health service


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The NHS Transformation Directorate has highlighted five key steps to drive the adoption of interoperability standards in the health service.

It has produced draft strategy on the issue, titled How standards will support interoperability, that has been published on the website of the Faculty of Clinical Informatics (FCI) with a call for feedback from any stakeholders, including the public.

The central feature is a five-step approach to encouraging adoption of standards, beginning with defining a model care record. This would have core components of a composite electronic health record, an agreed data structure or information architecture, and ensuring that the record has meaningful content.

Second is to define the architectural approach needed for an interoperable health system. This involves a number of steps such as recognising that patients’ information is fragmented and held on distributed systems, minimising the duplication of data between systems and having a consistent approach to the structure and content of exchanged information.

Encourage implementation

The third step is to make it easier to implement standards through steps such as publishing a directory of those that already exist, setting out a model for how new ones should be prioritised and commissioned, and creating tools to navigate SNOMED CT codes for electronic patient records.

Fourth is to manage standards as a product, with managers providing a voice for users in their organisations and ensuring the voice of systems suppliers is heard and taken into account.

Finally, there is a need to make it commercially attractive for vendors to adhere to the standards through aligning various levers and incentives and re-using existing international standards where possible.

The FCI said the document should be considered in conjunction with the Data Saves Lives: Reshaping health and social care with data draft strategy, which was published last year.

Unlock potential

“Data driven technologies have so much potential for our health and care system, but we can only unlock this potential if we have the right technical infrastructure in place,” the organisation said.

“Data is a shared asset, and as we break down the organisational silos that hold data, we must rebuild them on the foundations of a unified architecture, open standards and better interoperability, to enable the best use of this asset.”

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