Why Interoperability Must Be A Top Priority for the NHS
According to the findings of the 2018 NHS IT Leadership Survey, interoperability has become the highest single priority issue for NHS IT Leaders, and it’s no surprise as to why.
Interoperability is the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information, in a way which is meaningful.
With the vision of a people-powered health and care system, NHS England requires applications, data and processes to all work seamlessly for effective information sharing between care settings and organisations.
In order to optimise patient outcomes and quality of care, there is a need for IT systems across health and care to be interoperable with one another by allowing seamless data exchange from system to system and from primary to secondary care.
Benefits of Interoperability
Enabling systems to work together across organisational boundaries, interoperability leads to more effective healthcare delivery, better patient outcomes, and a host of other benefits including:
- Improves patient experience
- Provides accurate data across systems
- Reduces errors and improves efficiency
- Allows for accurate reporting
A Tech-First Vision
Recognising this, UK Health Minister, Matt Hancock set out a tech-first vision for future care provision, stating “Our ultimate objective is the provision of better care and improved health outcomes for people in England, but this cannot be done without a clear focus on improving the technology. The tech revolution is coming to the NHS. A modern technical architecture for the health and care service has huge potential to deliver better services and to unlock our innovations.”
In The Future of Healthcare policy paper, the Health Minister proposed that NHS digital services and IT systems will have to meet “a clear set of open standards” to ensure interoperability and updatability.
With the shift towards standardisation and information sharing between systems, outdated and obstructive NHS IT systems will soon become obsolete.
APIs For A People Powered Health and Care System
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have an important part to play in achieving the vision of a people-powered health and care system. As a result, Elemental is committed to enhancing the API capabilities of our Core social prescribing platform.
We’ve been working closely with our customers, including The Life Rooms, part of Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust to seamlessly integrate with their existing I.T platform which was already used across the Life Rooms sites, where client information can be pushed and pulled. This means that The Life Rooms can use their existing system to access Elemental’s Core platform. As a result, the API streamlines functionality and flexibility, creating an efficient and secure experience for our customers.
Our platform is also accessible from within the EMIS Web system to support GP practices to make, manage and report on referrals to local social prescribing hubs in just 3 clicks with ease and confidence. Using our robust and secure API, GPs can make view the status of referrals at different stages, update a patient’s case file and monitor progress, all without leaving the EMIS Web system.
At Elemental, we’ve been working with the NHS, housing associations, district councils and VCSE sector for over five years. As such, we’ve made it part of our business model to create APIs that capture the functionality and security required to allow these organisations to deliver better health outcomes for communities.
Collaborative Co-Design and Interoperable Solutions
Because digitisation is about people and not just technology, we-co-designed our solution with service users and frontline staff to ensure that the digital social prescribing user journey is effective, correct and fully adaptable, creating a positive experience for patients.
The Elemental platform is designed to let data move freely to our customers. This is facilitated through two systems. Using a REST API, Elemental’s Core platform can meet the needs of very diverse customers within the NHS, Housing, Local Authority and VCSE sector so that they can access their data in the way in which they want, collate reports and make data-driven decisions.
The Elemental Integration Engine allows Elemental to interact with existing customer platforms, on an individual customer basis.
The two-way flow of information allows systems to talk to each other safely and securely, giving our customers confidence that the data they need to provide appropriate care in the community is up to date and in the right place.
This interoperability means our customers can:
- Pull updated data to their in-house software systems
- Send data from their existing, in-house software programs to Elemental, which then updates the data in the cloud
Interoperability Is Radically Reshaping Healthcare
Virtually every aspect of modern life has been and will continue to be, radically reshaped by innovation and technology, and healthcare is no exception.
Technology will play a central role in realising the NHS Long Term Plan and it is vital that we support the vision to enforce technology standards to ensure data is interoperable and accessible. Data interoperability gives us the opportunity to develop and connect innovative software solutions to improve patient care and outcomes.
More and more health and social care organisations are developing joint strategies for prevention and health improvement, e.g. STPs and trust mergers have already made great progress on interoperability and this has been a huge driver in working towards the vision of a people-powered health and care system. As we move towards enhancing how our communities integrate and connect, we believe interoperability must be a priority for the NHS.