Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) are an essential ingredient of the NHS Long Term Plan, with England now served by 42 ICSs as of July 2022. The need to ensure that data flows readily and securely between central and regional organisations is vital.
By signing up to techUK's Interoperability Charter suppliers are actively demonstrating the commitments they are prepared to make to meet the significant data challenges faced by the NHS as it works towards the aims and objectives of the Health and Social Care Act 2022.
With the transition to ICSs requiring significant integration of data, and the horizontal integration of Provider Collaboratives encouraged across England, the commitment from industry demonstrated by this Charter is more important than ever.
Due to existing levels of fragmentation and divergence across the NHS, interoperability remains a fundamental building block for the development of a new, digitally enabled integrated care service. Interoperability is the ability of computer systems or software developed by different manufacturers' to exchange and make use of information. Our view is that data sharing platforms should not merely be defined by available technology, but by the needs of platform users, such as patients, clinicians, and relevant health care supply chain operators.
A truly effective interoperability ecosystem should provide an information infrastructure that uses technical standards, policies, and protocols to enable seamless and secure capture, discovery, and exchange of health information, as defined by Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).
Through our work with NHS England and Improvement on a major national Learn from Patient Safety Events (LFPSE) service, it is clear that industry membership of technical standards including DICOM, IHE, and HL7 is having a significant and positive impact on data sharing and insight that will help improve patient safety in care settings.
Creating an empowered digital health service requires the alignment of technology, interoperability, and standards. This goes a long way to ensuring digital transformation success across the whole healthcare system, enabling successful integration of ICS services across the country.
Whilst most suppliers work towards complete interoperability, meaning all digital information available everywhere, significant progress can be made through employing the principles of user centred design to make the most of real-world patient and clinician requirements. In doing so, we can deliver single, integrated workflows that improve efficiency, whilst enabling real change in the pace and effectiveness of health stakeholder engagement.
This can be achieved as part of a move to value-based care, which revolves around achieving the best outcomes at reasonable cost and moving away from purely supply-designed services towards more authentic patient and clinician centred systems. Such an approach improves health service experiences and enhances the efficiency of treatment pathways for patients and clinicians alike.
The Government's Plan for Digital Health and Social Care, published June 2022, stated that digital tools should empower people to look after their health and take greater control of their own care, offering flexibility and support. To realise this vision and help shape a modern, empowered digital health service that places both patients and clinicians at the heart of digital service design, combining user-centred design and interoperability will be key.