Chris Netherton

Chris Netherton

Managing Director, Microtest

At Microtest, we are passionate about the principle of interoperability as we believe this will be the cornerstone of better patient care. Of course, this is not only true for the UK – it is currently a hot topic in healthcare markets around the world. So we keep a close eye on what our industry can learn from pioneering developments overseas.

We are particularly inspired by the work of the Center for Medical Interoperability in the United States. They have garnered support from organizations across the healthcare system and are currently forming a technology coalition to develop vendor-neutral blueprints that enable interoperability within health systems. These blueprints will support real-time one-to-many communication, two-way data exchange, plug-and-play integration of devices and systems, the use of standards, and the highest level of security.

This month, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced that the technology developers that provide 90 percent of electronic health records used by U.S. hospitals and the five largest private healthcare systems have agreed to implement three commitments to improve the flow of health information to consumers and healthcare providers.

These three principles are:

  • Consumer Access: To help consumers easily and securely access their electronic health information, direct it to any desired location, learn how their information can be shared and used, and be assured that this information will be effectively and safely used to benefit their health and that of their community. Many of the biggest health IT developers have committed to using standardized application programming interfaces and a single shared standard for communicating with one another, Health Level 7 – Fast Health Care Interoperability Resources (FHIR®), so that user-friendly resources, like smartphone and tablet apps, can quickly be made market-ready and compatible with one another.
  • No Information Blocking: To help providers share individuals’ health information for care with other providers and their patients whenever permitted by law, and not block electronic health information.
  • Standards: Implement federally recognized, national interoperability standards, policies, guidance, and practices for electronic health information, and adopt best practices including those related to privacy and security. Many of these market leaders are embracing ONC’s Interoperability Standards Advisory—a coordinated catalogue of existing and emerging standards and implementation specifications. This guidance is updated annually in order to keep pace with developments in the health IT industry. By identifying current best practices in standards, this advisory will assist healthcare providers to more easily collaborate with one another and share data across “interoperable” electronic health records.

HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell put it eloquently when she said: “Technology isn’t just one leg of our strategy to build a better healthcare system for our nation, it supports the entire effort.”

At Microtest, we welcome the creation of similar principles in the UK, so as to help create a future where electronic health data is shared seamlessly and is easily accessible when and where it matters most to providers and consumers. The commitments just announced in the United States, (together with their ‘Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020’ and ‘Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap,’) are really important milestones.

Meanwhile in the UK, work is progressing on the second phase of the GP Suppliers of Choice (GPSoC) programme, whereby suppliers have been invited to work in an open and collaborative manner to develop and define common interfaces and protocols. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners to shape our UK roadmap for connected healthcare. The IM2 (Interface Mechanism Part 2) project is designed to accelerate innovation and will keep the UK right at the forefront of healthcare technology developments worldwide.

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