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techUK pushes integration message



Suppliers’ association launches charter to support technology interoperability for health and social care

IT industry association techUK has published an Interoperability Charter for health and social care technology, along with a call for suppliers and other organisations to sign up in an effort to boost integration of the sectors.

It has claimed the support of NHS England and said it is based on the vision paper on interoperability that it published in March.

A spokesperson for techUK told UKAuthority: “It’s about trying to get the industry to sign up to making technology an enabler rather than a barrier to sharing data in a health and social care setting.”

The charter consists of five principles to which suppliers are asked to commit:

  • making technical specifications of their interfaces available to other suppliers and the NHS without charge
  • that when there is customer demand they will co-operate without charge in developing interfaces
  • they will not reinvent the wheel and use internationally recognised standards where relevant
  • they will only charge reasonable and proportionate fees to end user organisations for licensing, implementation and support services required for the interfaces
  • and they will not charge the NHS twice for software development when new interfaces or enhancements to existing ones are required.

It also asks the NHS and local government to reciprocate with two guarantees. One is that national interoperability standards should be based on those that are internationally recognised, and developed with industry bodies. The other is that any accreditation and compliance testing should be light touch.

The techUK spokesperson said there was no specific target for the number of signatories, but that it has gone well in the days since its launch earlier this month, and that it is open to non-members and health and social care organisations.

Provide momentum

Publishing the charter can be seen as an attempt by techUK to provide some momentum to the move towards integration by shaping a different commercial landscape in which suppliers take a more open approach to software development. In its vision document the association declared its support for an open market with open interfaces to connect disparate systems, and said it could support the development and verification of standards to make it possible.

When the paper was published in March, Natalie Bateman, head of health, social care and local government at techUK, said: "Interoperability is key to delivering an ecosystem whereby applications, data and processes allow the right information to be available to the right user at the right time. Only when we achieve the right standards will we be able to make integrated care happen at scale.”

The integration of health and social care has been on the agenda of government for at least a decade, but progress has been hampered partly by the traditional development of IT in separate silos for the two sectors. Laying the ground for increased interoperability would be a significant step towards integration.

While technical interoperability is a crucial element of the integration, it faces other barriers such as differing protocols for access to and sharing information, and agreements on data governance.


Image by Joseph L Ridgway II (own work), CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons




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