The chief technology officer of the £12.7 billion NHS National Programme for IT has told Computerworld UK that standards bodies must “stop arguing” and work together, so that the NHS can deliver highly interoperable software in hospitals across the country.
Paul Jones, CTO at Connecting for Health, the agency responsible for the delivery of the programme, said the NHS will now reduce the number of standards it uses, from “15 or 20” to two or three,
But he added that “we’re not moving away from the national programme”, which will use two key care records systems, iSoft Lorenzo and Cerner Millennium, supplemented by additional suppliers.
Jones warned that healthcare industry bodies must also not fight over which standard was best. Each healthcare standards body “thinks they’re the most important”, he said. “They need to stop arguing about which is right, and get working together.”
Jones said there were clear benefits to be gained from proper healthcare standards, including lower costs and better interoperability between systems.
The NHS will now reduce the number of standards it uses, from “15 or 20” to two or three, Jones said. It will set key standards in messaging, in terminology so computers understand each other, and in clinical documents.
The NHS will use version 3 of the HL7 messaging standard, the CDA clinical document standard and the Snomed terminology standard. “It helps us in a national programme if we’re running international products,” he said.
All of the standards are set by international bodies that are independent from software suppliers. Jones said “there are governance measures in place” to make sure one supplier did not take prominence over another in standards setting.
But the NHS would also make sure the standards were easily accessible and usable by suppliers, he explained. Rules around data sharing and security are specified in supplier contracts, including the ISO 27001 standard.
Standards in themselves did not necessarily equate to full interoperability, Jones warned, and the NHS would have to work on integrating processes so that systems worked to their full potential. “All suppliers using the same standards does not mean they’ll be interoperable,” he said. “All the business flows and process flows still need to be worked in.”
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