Case Study

Championing interoperability and revolutionising digital healthcare across the UK

Digital healthcare is a fast-paced industry. In fact, so rapid is the implementation of new technology that challenges often arise.

Systems don’t integrate, applications don’t work in tandem, data is locked away behind closed systems. At Accenda, we understand that with tech trends in the wider world moving towards increasing openness and interoperability, for digital healthcare to thrive it must start to do the same.

In the UK, digital healthcare systems have traditionally come about in the same way. American systems initially built for the insurance market are stripped of their finance elements then repurposed for the healthcare industry. This process is known as “anglicisation,” and although it was the best option at the time, it has left behind a legacy of problems, first and foremost the fact these systems are often closed and proprietary.

Over the last few years, there has been a great push to roll out more efficient and effective digital healthcare systems across the NHS, specifically with regards to making them open and interoperable. NHS Digital has been doing excellent work, but with the new Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s background in tech, things are stepping up. Mr Hancock has been one of the driving forces between NHSx, a new organisation aiming to be more radical, agile and forward-thinking than some of its predecessors, and Accenda has been working in a similar capacity.

In the UK, the NHS is aligned to INTEROPen, an action group designed to accelerate the development of open standards for interoperability in the health and social care sector. The idea is that healthcare data should be open, accessible and readily transferable across the NHS, as this will help clinicians provide better care, cut unnecessary costs and give patients control over their own data. Accenda has signed up to this charter, as we believe it is a key community whose principles are the best way forward for the future of digital healthcare.

As part of the INTEROpen community, Accenda is at the cutting edge of digital healthcare, working on projects even as the different standards are brought in. For us, key amongst these standards are OpenEHR and FIHR, around which there has been some controversy. At a recent REWIRED festival, there was a debate as to which standard people should be using, but at Accenda we understand that both are needed. FHIR is designed for the exchange of data, moving it from point to point, while openEHR is optimised to store it. The key part is that they are both open core systems, systems which people should be innovating on top of.

This is clearly a complex, fast-moving world, but what sets Accenda apart from other digital organisations is our ability to act quickly, efficiently and in an agile way. While larger, more established outfits have proven unwieldy in responding to the changing market  – think the Titanic turning too slowly – our ability to stay agile has allowed us to get in on the ground floor. We are leading the charge for an interoperable model for digital healthcare in the UK, particularly within the NHS, championing open systems that allow easy transfer of data.

We’re closely aligned with NHS Digital, and have worked on projects as far-ranging as a implementing an Integrated Healthcare Gateway with the Greater Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group and rolling out openEHR technology to give patients at Salford Royal Hospital access to their own data. We’re also members of the openEHR Foundation, as well as partners with digital healthcare experts Better (formerly Marand), putting us in a unique position to act as the interface between all these different organisations.

Perhaps the most exciting project in our pipeline is our upcoming work on the NHS Login. This is a revolutionary project that will ultimately see every UK citizen issued a login with which they can access all of their medical data. Think of it like a single front door to open patient records, and Accenda is helping to make it work seamlessly with existing systems.

The world is beginning to demand healthcare be unlocked and made open to the people. While there have been false steps in the past – failed NHS schemes like care.data programme and The Spine – things are now moving in the right direction, and Accenda is at the head of the charge. From our work in local health care records exemplars (LHCREs)  to our implementation of open source solutions at NHS trusts across the country, we’re leading the way for a better, more connected, more interoperal future for digital healthcare.

Next project

Using integrated, open-source technology to put patients’ clinical data in their own hands

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