Chris Netherton, M.D.

Interoperability now leads the agenda for NHS IT teams

The next 12 months will be a crucial phase in the development of interoperability within the NHS. This will be a time when all clinical software suppliers will need to continually raise their game to meet the challenges ahead.

Recently, Digital Health Intelligence published the results of their annual NHS IT Leadership Survey, which is carried out among the most senior IT professionals within the NHS, as well as doctors and nurses who are working on digital projects. It found that a massive 82% believed that interoperability was now the highest priority issue for their teams (up from 51% in the previous year’s survey).

It has long been apparent that improved data sharing and streamlined, seamless IT systems will be crucial in driving future improvements in patient care and in the efficient, cost-effective use of our valuable medical resources. NHS England have stated that interoperability is key to the delivery of the future vision of patient care in the country.

Movement toward full interoperability is gathering pace and outmoded “data silos” and isolated data records will soon become things of the past.

Microtest has long been at the forefront of developments in interoperability in the NHS. We were the first IT supplier to sign up to GP Connect and the first to develop, design and deliver a purpose- built GP Connect solution. GP Connect provides collaborating practices and wider care settings outside of general practice, like A&E and social care, secure role-based access to primary data held in GP systems.

Interoperability will mean that GP practices regain their autonomy. They will be able to make decisions about which system to choose based on whether the software best meets their own needs – rather than having to take into account whether or not it will integrate effectively with other systems.

But most importantly, it will improve patient care, ensuring that the latest patient data is always available at point of care, across care settings.

In the South West of England, Microtest Guru allows patients to be taken to almost anywhere in the wider health community, safe in the knowledge that the clinician treating them will have secure and appropriate access to their primary care record, regardless of the specific practice or clinical system that holds their electronic records. Here Guru has been helping clinicians and other healthcare professionals to deliver fully informed clinical intervention, improving the patient experience and reducing wasted time for patients and clinicians alike.

For example, in hospital pharmacy, where Guru is used for medicines reconciliations, one hospital team is saving 250 man hours each month on carrying out reconciliations. This frees up valuable staff time that can be spent more fruitfully on critical face-to-face patient care.

Our experience in interoperability is also being applied in the development of our new core clinical system, Open Evolution. This state-of-the-art hosted solution has been specifically designed to help practices to reap the full benefits of the new era of interoperability. Open Evolution will allow collaborating and federating practices to share medical records and office functions across the group, leading to the best possible integrated care for patients and the ultimate in ease of use for practices. Open Evolution is designed to provide the very latest standard of patient record sharing between practices and other healthcare organisations, ensuring full compliance with data protection laws.

This month, Microtest jointly announced that work had been completed on successfully integrating the Servelec RiO electronic patient record product for mental and community health with Microtest’s Open Evolution clinical IT system for GP practices. This will support the safe and secure health community sharing of patient records.

This integration with Microtest is the first for the market-leading Servelec product with any of the four IT clinical systems supplied to the NHS in England. It will provide RiO users secure access to clinical information held in Microtest’s GP system. At the same time, users of Microtest with eReferral, eDischarge notices and care summary information from Servelec’s RiO system.

Throughout the summer, Microtest have been working with practices on the new version of Open Evolution that will be released next month and will allow Microtest surgeries to share patient records so that they can provide improved access to GPs, for example by offering evening and weekend appointments by covering appointments at one appointed surgery within the group on a rota basis.

This is the latest illustration of Microtest’s commitment to lead the way in interoperability in clinical software. If you are interested in exploring Microtest’s unique track record in interoperability, you can find out more at the case study links below and in the ‘case studies’ section on our website:

Earlier this year, Microtest was very proud to be named a Preferred Vendor for NHS Wales for the very first time. Our team then embarked on a three-month intensive tour of Welsh practices where we explained our plans for Open Evolution and the crucial benefits that it would deliver in terms of interoperability of systems – now and into the future. We are delighted that 111 GP practices in Wales have now decided to move to Microtest.

We look forward to continuing to lead the way in interoperability in healthcare in the UK.