London, UK – 23rd November 2011 – A new report calls on the Department of Health to strengthen its efforts to encourage data sharing in the NHS. Paul Cooper, IMS MAXIMS Head of Research, co-authored ‘We Should Talk: Interoperability and the NHS’, on behalf of tech UK, the trade association representing the UK’s IT, electronics and telecoms industries. The document scrutinises the effectiveness of the Interoperability Toolkit (ITK) – a set of standards and frameworks designed to help the NHS across England to connect IT systems with one another.
The report praises much about the ITK, especially its recognition that the greatest benefits can be achieved at a local level, and that some interoperability is better than none. It goes on to recommend that far more needs to be done to engage suppliers and says a major drive is needed to persuade many people within the NHS that interoperability is vital to the success of their organisations.
Paul Cooper said: “There is a huge problem in the NHS because many of the IT systems cannot talk to each other. This means that staff often can’t get access to the information they need. Clinicians can only do the best for patients if they have all the relevant information about their conditions, and hospitals can only deliver efficient services if they have the data to identify bottlenecks in their systems or areas of waste.
“An efficient healthcare system, which delivers the best for patients and makes effective use of resources, can only exist if data can be shared within and between organisations. The good news is that these problems can be overcome and that everyone within the healthcare IT sector accepts that interoperability is the way forward. But too many people in the NHS still see interoperability as a technical matter rather than something which allows them to do their jobs better.
“The ITK initiative must do more to persuade everyone from medical and nursing directors, to FDs and CEOs that this is a mission critical issue. Suppliers provide what trusts ask for, and interoperability will only get to the top of the agenda if it’s central to what the customer demands.”
The report also calls for closer and more productive links to be established between the DH, the NHS, tech UK and its members. For the ITK to be a success, it argues, there must be productive and collaborative engagement with suppliers.
We Should Talk: Interoperability and the NHS, was written by Paul Cooper of IMS MAXIMS and Martin Whittaker of the Touchstone Consultancy, both of whom are members of the teckUK Healthcare Council. It was published in September 2011.
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