Open standards are key to achieving the government’s aim of integrated digital care records by 2018, says IHE’s UK chair.

Neil Robinson, UK chair of the non-profit organisation dedicated to interoperability in health information technology, told EHI that as the NHS “moves away from monolithic data structures”, it is essential that the different parts of health and social care services are able to talk to each other.

“This is really the essence of putting the patient at the centre of their own care as you can only put the patient at the centre if the information about them is shared and you can only share information if you’re all talking the same language,” he explained.

“It’s got to be open standards and that opens the market up to more SME organisations.”

Robinson added that smaller businesses would have a particular role in providing options for linking information from the community and voluntary sectors.

A recently released document from NHS England about digitising NHS hospitals sets a target of Integrated Digital Care Records across all care settings by 2018. A new £260m Safer Hospitals, Safer Wards Technology Fund is tied to the target of a ‘paperless NHS’.

IHE is holding a free webinar on standards next Tuesday, 16 July, with speakers including Inderjit Singh who works on the Technology Fund initiative at NHS England.

Robinson said the “significant chunk of money” available presents a “window of opportunity” for getting open standards into trust plans.

“I don’t think we can expect every trust that gets the funding to have a system on day one which has open interoperability standards. But we can expect that as they are writing applications and designing electronic medical record solutions they must have standards-based interoperability on their roadmap.”

He added that there was an international push towards open standards with projects going ahead in Europe and the US.

Robinson said he would like to see chief clinical information officers involved in next week’s webinar as well as finance people.

The webinar is being supported by NHS England and the Health and Social Care Information Centre.