What should the NHS technology agenda focus on in 2016?

Article posted on: January 4, 2016

I recently attended a Health Insights conference in London where many of the sharpest minds in the NHS gathered to discuss the importance of digital health and in particular what the NHS technology agenda should be focusing on in 2016, and how NHS England can help with this.

Every key point that was mentioned during the regional one day conferences seemed to link back to one thing – interoperability.

The Five Year Forward View refers to interoperability as “local information systems that can ‘speak with each other’ and information can flow between them seamlessly. Across the NHS, many sites are struggling because key information systems do not allow them to share essential patient information throughout health and care.”

During the table surgery discussions at Health Insights, the importance of achieving interoperability was highlighted by a number of NHS staff. However, the challenges could not be ignored and appeared to centre on the lack of integration in the current system.  The fragmented structure means that clinicians are unable to view previous episodes of care from other care settings, while the inability to share care plans can impact on the quality of care patients receive, which in turn means that work often has to be repeated. This is obviously a cause for concern.

Another issue that cropped up during the discussions was the difficulty in identifying the right technology. There isn’t a one size fits all solution, and software vendors haven’t yet been able to fully meet the ever growing needs of interoperability in the NHS. Delegates at the conference raised a number of other salient questions including what sharing of information in the NHS meant to them - should patient data be shared locally or nationally? Is the current technology in healthcare fit for use for both the citizen and user?  When will there be access to real-time patient records and information?

Key to discussions were the digital roadmaps created by NHS England, which should act as the first step in achieving the interoperability goals. These detailed roadmaps, that must be submitted by April 2016, will ensure clinicians in all care settings will be operating without the need to find or complete paper records and that all patient and care records will be digital and interoperable. People want one login and native system ideally, and interoperability appears to be the only way to achieve this.

Health Insights conferences bring together NHS health IT experts and frontline practitioners in a bid to share best practice around key issues such as interoperability and integration. The series is now being prepared for 2016, with the Spring/Summer programme set to commence in Manchester on 8 June 2016 and will look further into how the submission of digital roadmaps has created greater interoperability across all health and care settings.

Twitter: @HIMSS_UK

Kiran Mangat
Kiran Mangat, Marketing Executive, HIMSS UK