Policy, Progress, Pace: Is the NHS Finally Able to Move Past Siloed Tech?

Alcidion Ltd Opinion Article by Lynette Ousby, UK Managing Director, Alcidion.
There is a new energy emerging that might shake up the health tech market, and long-embedded challenges around siloed data and technologies.

Political will to move away from data being locked-in by deployed electronic patient record (EPR) systems has been reinforced in the NHSX draft strategy 'Data Saves Lives'.

One of the key ambitions of the data strategy is to give staff "easy access to the right information to provide the best possible care". And in the preceding months to the strategy being published, NHSX started an important dialogue to join forces with trusts to improve innovation in the EPR market, so that it better meets the needs of healthcare and the stakeholders, from clinicians to patients.

For health tech suppliers, we need to play our part in the conversation so that we are working with NHS organisations at all levels and it is extremely positive to hear NHSX inviting such engagement. Suppliers need to bring choice that will benefit each region and its respective trusts, agencies, care providers and ultimately patients. Vendors need to be viewed as part of the solution, rather than part of the problem - and for that to happen we need to be willing to work as partners in an open ecosystem.

Creating an open ecosystem EPR

Since coronavirus took hold in the UK, we have seen incredible dedication from health and social care staff, and some great collaboration across organisational boundaries.

That spirit of co-operation and the new national data strategy creates an environment where we can all play our part to harness data to make improvements for staff, organisations and patients.

Healthcare organisations are still often hampered by disparate legacy systems and information that is held in silos, causing opaqueness and uncertainty, despite discussions around integration and interoperability having dominated conference agendas for years, if not decades.

We are seeing new willingness to move past words - but that too must be matched by vendors. What we need from healthcare technology providers is transparency, flexibility and the surfacing of data in ways that is convenient to users. And it is extremely motivating to see those requirements emerge in recent policy development and dialogue.

With integrated care systems (ICSs) due to be put on a legislative footing next year, time is pressing to ensure accessibility and useability of data. If ICSs are to be run in a cohesive manner, the technology of each constituent organisation must be able to communicate interactively. There needs to be a comprehensive, robust and open data orchestration layer that forms the foundation for whatever is required. And on that layer, a range of useful elements - or applications - can be built, that meet the needs in any given situation but that also, importantly, use that data to the benefit of the clinician and patient through the adoption of modern technologies and innovative capabilities.

Optimising the tech options

Once the infrastructure is in place, each health or care organisation should be able to seize the opportunities available to them and realise how technology might best be used.

As emerging policy recognises, this means separating the data and application layers and utilising the cloud, so that important information is accessible from any location at any time, in a secure and appropriate manner. Unlocking data will also fuel innovation in supplier ecosystems that could lead to a shift from vendor lock-in to flexible options for providers in everything from clinical decision support, to e-observations, AI, natural language processing, task management, communications tools, and more.

At Alcidion, we have also been fortunate to participate in the evolution of the healthcare systems of Australia and New Zealand, where recognition of the value of data to aid clinical decision making has started to be realised. We are now collaborating with NHS trusts in the UK to help them create a digital ecosystem that meets their needs. This ecosystem will deliver clinician-facing technology that automates routine functions and presents information proactively. Modern ecosystems must provide the NHS with digital options that help alleviate the cognitive burden on clinicians that is often associated with historic cumbersome technologies which in some cases were built for business processes rather than clinical workflow.

New functions, more collaboration

So, what next for the NHS and ICSs? The creation of an open infrastructure, with separate data and application layers, to support organisations and staff on the ground, presents a phenomenal opportunity to overcome some of the big historic challenges in healthcare IT around data. Changing demographics with ongoing health and care requirements mean that services need to be continually reviewed and new options developed. What works now might not work in five or ten years, so we need to be proactive, flexible, and responsive.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that collaboration is necessary, and agility can happen if there is a will to consider new angles. Healthcare professionals, commissioners and technology experts need to keep having the conversations of what else can be done. I hope that, collectively, we can build on the momentum for change, to create a partnership ecosystem filled with innovation and a healthcare environment no longer hampered by interoperability challenges.

Most Popular Now

Two Leading CIOs Join the Highland Marke…

Two of the NHS' most dynamic chief information officers have joined Highland Marketing’s advisory board of NHS IT professionals and health tech industry experts. Ian Hogan, a CIO at the Northern...

Using Technology to Support Primary Care

Opinion Article by Paul Bensley, Managing Director of Primary Care Cloud Telephony Specialist X-on. It is good to see the publication of this strategy [A plan for digital health and social...

Building the Right Foundations to Delive…

Opinion Article by Gary Birks, Gary Birks, General Manager, UK and Ireland, Orion Health. The latest strategy for health and care IT looks to build on what has been achieved over...

Teaching AI to Ask Clinical Questions

Physicians often query a patient's electronic health record for information that helps them make treatment decisions, but the cumbersome nature of these records hampers the process. Research has shown that...

Virtual Reality App Trial Shown to Reduc…

Results from a University of Otago, Christchurch trial suggest fresh hope for the estimated one-in-twelve people worldwide suffering from a fear of flying, needles, heights, spiders and dogs. The trial, led...

MIT Engineers Develop Stickers that can …

Ultrasound imaging is a safe and noninvasive window into the body’s workings, providing clinicians with live images of a patient’s internal organs. To capture these images, trained technicians manipulate ultrasound...

AI Analyses Neuron Changes to Detect whe…

A research group from Nagoya University in Japan has developed an artificial intelligence (AI) for analyzing cell images that uses machine learning to predict the therapeutic effect of drugs. Called...

Patient Deterioration Predictor could Su…

An artificial intelligence-driven device that works to detect and predict hemodynamic instability may provide a more accurate picture of patient deterioration than traditional vital sign measurements, a Michigan Medicine study...

Interoperability with Open Standards: Le…

Opinion Article by Vivek Krishnan, CTO, Alcidion Group. The future of healthcare systems lies in open standards that free data from traditional, stand-alone silos and make it available to the many...

Advancing Dynamic Brain Imaging with AI

MRI, electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography have long served as the tools to study brain activity, but new research from Carnegie Mellon University introduces a novel, AI-based dynamic brain imaging technology...

Open Call HORIZON-EIC-2022-PATHFINDERCHA…

Current technologies for digital data storage are hitting sustainability limits in terms of energy consumption and their use of rare and toxic materials. Moreover, data integrity when using those technologies...

NHS Trust Dramatically Reduces Acute Kid…

A condition linked to thousands of UK deaths has been significantly reduced by healthcare professionals at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, with the help of a new care...