Posted by: Tony Shannon | January 31, 2017

2017: Healthcare under Pressure: time for an Open Platform: 1% push

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

As the world turns between Brexit and Trump-it, we face uncertain times in 2017 and beyond.

We know that over the course of history patterns emerge and we see cycles at play. We have seen city states evolve into nation states and then great empires and yet just now we are seeing that trend in reverse, back towards a more nationalist/isolationist mindset. Some folk who have not seen the benefits of globalisation are, perhaps understandably, tempted to look after their own.

Those of us alive at this point in history, witnessing the forces of globalisation in action, note that one of its key components is being called out as “technology” as if it were a new and shiny thing, yet “technology” can be called “tools” and humans have been crafting and improving their world with tools since the dawn of time. The modern set of “information technology” tools unleashed in recent decades are like a genie out of the bottle now, for we know they enable folk to collaborate and cooperate across boundaries in a myriad of new and innovative ways. Open standards that have unleashed the power of the Internet and open source code has unleashed the likes of  Android, Drupal, WordPress, etc  and other open platforms that are changing the world.

Open international collaboration helped to give birth and foster the power of modern medical science as we now know it. If any sector is going to face increased pressure in the turbulent time ahead, it can be expected to be medicine and healthcare. Whether the natural tide of human migration is stymied or not over the next decade(s), as a sector that already requires 8-10% of GDP in most countries, expectations are that aging populations along with lower/more sustainable birth rates will force a narrower tax paying cohort to look after a larger number of people in the Western world. Many of those who have grown up in the West have grown used to/ now expect “cradle to grave” healthcare systems to look after them as they grow old, so expectations are on the rise while available resource is in decline.  

So we can expect that efforts towards healthcare reform and improvement will continue as a universal effort, tackled in a variety of ways (as befits a complex adaptive system such as healthcare) across the globe. For those of us that have spent some time in this field,we have learned that some clear patterns have emerged/are emerging from these efforts to improve on the current state of healthcare.

In particular we see the important potential of an open platform approach in healthcare to revolutionise the support of frontline of care delivery and its related transformation towards a more patient centred approach- where the patient will ultimately take greater control of their own health and care- as the only sustainable way forward.

In that context myself and my colleague Ewan Davis have just recently launched a bid towards a collaborative Open Digital Platform Challenge fund, based on a mere 1% of currently available healthcare IT funding. The rationale behind this is that the current health IT market is simply not good enough, with ample evidence of acknowledged limitations across the globe, from accessibility to interoperability to usability.

Our suggestion is to challenge the historical approach to this challenge and thereby the current state of health IT, we need to try something quite different.

Within our push we advocate important principles such as clinical leadership, agile development methodologies, regular review and assurance of both the process and the results, collaborative community building and ultimately a move towards an open platform for health and care that can be reused around the world. Indeed we specifically suggest that a key set of open source components could and should be used towards a more service oriented architecture in healthcare (which could most likely be reused by local government as well).

To that end our Open Digital Platform push is currently open for Expressions of Interest across England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. There is no reason why the ideas and principles involved here could not spread further and wider.

So if you sense there may be even a little common sense in such a tactic towards an open platform for healthcare, internationally, across borders and between collaborators…

….please get in touch. This work has begun.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead (1901-1978).  

Used with permission.

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