Posted by: Tony Shannon | November 30, 2014

Towards an Open Platform: NHS Open Source Day at the Races.. and they’re off

Towards an Open Platform: NHS Open Source Day at the Races… and they’re off..

The great city of Newcastle in the North of England hosted a landmark event this month. Newcastle is a proud city famed for its industrial heritage and its warm hospitality and was where I spent formative years as a trainee in Emergency Medicine based around the Northern Deanery. So it was great to be back for an all important event hosted by NHS England on Open Source in the NHS. The NHS England Open Source event at Newcastle Racecourse appeared to be a great success, full to capacity with a good size crowd of the pioneers in this movement and others who had come along to look and learn.

 

To give some of the context and background of this important event, one must acknowledge where the NHS has come from in recent years.. i.e. only a couple of years ago the NHS ran the largest civil IT programme in the world (based down the road (and one of the reasons I moved to work) in Leeds) named NHS Connecting for Health/NHS National Programme for IT which did some good work but in other ways ran aground against the complexities of the healthcare ecosystem.

Since then the approach to NHS Health IT has swung in the opposite direction, allowing “a thousand flowers to bloom” as the recent NHS Five Year Forward report put it. The talk since the demise of the National Programme for IT lately has been of the promise of “interoperability” and standards as the preferred way forward to join up all the many disconnected people/process/technical systems of the NHS. However simply waiting for the right standard to make it all better fails to understand the disconnect in the current Health IT market where frontline innovators, vendors, eHealth bodies and the Standard Development Organisations (SDOs) are often working in isolation from one another, without a common platform on which to build.

 

Thanks to the enlightened leadership of those of the top of the health reform with IT agenda at NHS England (Bev Bryant, Richard Jefferson, Peter Coates, Andy Williams, Ewan Davies, Indi Singh to name just a few of the key players (apols to the many others/& those behind the scenes :o)) my sense is the NHS is now moving towards the cusp of a much smarter way of doing things.

 

On the face of it this event was simply about opening the eyes of the NHS to the power and potential of Open Source software to positively disrupt healthcare. As healthcare is conservative part of the public sector and the public sector is a conservative part of industry, it has taken some time for the NHS to catch-up on this. The significance of this pivotal shift should not be underestimated, though we are only in the early days. One of the key stats mentioned on the day was that 1/3 of all NHS hospitals trusts had submitted a recent bid to the NHS Tech Fund with an open source interest, which heralds an important shift in dynamics of the market.

Importantly and interestingly at the same time, the range of open source solutions on offer to the NHS has rapidly ballooned over the last year with solutions/projects such as Open Eyes, Open Dental, Open Minds, OpenPACS, Open EDRMS, OpenEPR, OpenMaxims, openEP etc all being exposed to the audience.

 

Yet perhaps the most important part of the whole event was the parallel launch of the NHS Code 4 Health platform, with the HANDI HOPD platform as central to this. Here the principle is to offer the basis of an open platform, based on a healthy blend of open source and open record architecture (i.e. openEHR) to the NHS clinical/coding community.

This move towards an “open platform” could be /should be a game changer in the NHS and have implications further afield. Though it will take time to tell, the idea is that NHS clinicians and coders can now begin to collaborate with a set of tools that will allow for scalable, maintainable and well- constructed health applications based on good informatics practice from elsewhere in the world. In my opinion this blend of open source and open architecture and open tools is key to the way forward with the promise of aligning the efforts of innovators, vendors, eHealth bodies and SDOs alike.

Thankfully this approach fits well with the work being done within Leeds – on the Leeds Teaching Hospitals PPM+ platform, the related Leeds Care Record initiative and most recent Integration Pioneer plans … all being built towards the same open platform end. FYI Related slides on Connecting Leeds: Work towards an open platform below and here.

 

It’s great to see the happy and healthy development of such an enlightened community. A colleague remarked that the 100 or 150 folk present were only a tiny fraction of the 1 million+ NHS staff. Fair point indeed, but it’s with small innovative communities such as these that real change begins.
My sense is there is no going back now, the race towards the open platform that will transform 21st Century Healthcare has begun…

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Responses

  1. […] In recent years I have moved to lead on some of the change required by promoting the role of open source and open standards in work that has underpinned the development of the Leeds Teaching Hospitals PPM+ platform and the related Leeds Care Record. I think that this work has gone well and thankfully in recent times we have seen the market starting to change. […]

  2. […] In recent years I have moved to lead on some of the change required by promoting the role of open source and open standards in work that has underpinned the development of the Leeds Teaching Hospitals PPM+ platform and the related Leeds Care Record. I think that this work has gone well and thankfully in recent times we have seen the market starting to change. […]


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