Volunteers sought for Code4Health pilots

  • 4 December 2014

NHS England is looking for NHS trusts and other healthcare providers to act as pilot sites for its re-animated Code4Health programme.

The pilots form part a plan to establish a “franchisee” model, with organisations providing virtual and physical Code4Health courses that lead to recognised qualifications.

Peter Coates, NHS England's open source programme manager, has expanded on plans for Code4Health at a number of recent open source events.

In March, EHI reported that Code4Health was being given a new lease of life after news on the initiative to teach 50,000 clinicians to code dried up in the latter half of 2013.

At the time, NHS England’s head of business systems Richard Jefferson said he would be heading up Code4Health, running alongside its open source programme, with plans to redefine and potentially broaden its objectives.

At a recent meeting, Coates described the programme as “an important part of the whole ecosystem” as a development and learning platform for clinicians and developers.

“To me, it’s all about developers, designers and clinicians having a better understanding of each other’s worlds and understanding the possible.”

Coates said part of the Code4Health programme will be based on creating a “self-sustaining community” of franchisees, such as trusts, clinical commissioning groups, and GP organisations, to run a set of courses and activities on digital health and health informatics.

He said the first courses are likely to be on “building a healthcare app in a day” and “data visualisation in a day”, with other potential subjects to include an introduction to open source and to open clinical content health records.

NHS England will commission the development of an exemplar set of courses, which are expected to lead to recognised vocational and academic qualifications.

Coates said the Code4Health team will look for two to three franchises in each region to run several training courses for doctors and nurses.

There are plans to run small pilots before 31 March with “a couple of hundred people” on courses across the country, with feedback from the participants used to inform future plans for Code4Health.

The Code4Health programme will also use the HANDI Health Open Platform Demonstrator, developed to provide a testing and development environment to build apps, using anonymised test data provided by the Leeds Health Innovation Lab in an environment simulating realistic digital healthcare ecosystems.

Coates said Code4Health has been given free licences by a number of suppliers for testing and development purposes, allowing users to experiment with different open source electronic health records, knowledge repositories and APIs to build trial apps.

“The concept is really that in the Code4Health learning sessions, clinicians can come together with developers, identify the systems they’re using in the current trusts, and experiment with them and develop new functionality and new apps that they can potentially use in the real world.”

Coates said the platform is “effectively still in alpha version”, but is being used by Fivium to develop an open source electronic prescribing system.

When announced by Kelsey, the Code4Health programme was going to be based on the US organisation ‘Code for America’, created to teach local government workers how to create apps and services using open source data.

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