The newly established National Information Board needs some “quick wins” to convince the public and healthcare professionals that the NHS is making progress on its paperless agenda.
Speaking at the e-Health Week conference in London this week, Noel Gordon, non-executive director of NHS England, said it is “critical” to make some immediate progress on implementing some of the board’s goals.
The NIB, which held its second board meeting in public at the conference, released its long-awaited IT strategy, ‘Personalised Health and Care 2020’, at the end of 2014 as a “framework for action” for NHS IT.
The strategy has several short-term aims for 2015, including providing online access to GP records for all citizens and establishing a “kitemarking” process to assess apps for NHS approval.
Gordon described the need for quick wins as one of three key things that NIB needs to get right, saying swift progress will “demonstrate our ability to deliver, earn the credibility that we can take this society on a journey toward a technology-based health system, and also earn the right to invest huge sums of public money.”
He said the other two areas are the need to drive behavioural change in the NHS to embrace technology, and the need to ensure security of the healthcare data – a pressing issue considering that wearable devices will “explode” the analytical data available.
Life sciences minister George Freeman agreed that progress needs to be made quickly, saying there must be some “early winners” for the board.
“I think within 12, 18, 24 months there needs to be something tangible that really moves the dialogue and raises public excitement. We’ve had enough of the long-term vision: we need to be setting out some tangible benefits in the next year or two years.”
Freeman said he is particularly interested in the use of healthcare apps, highlighting their potential to improve clinical engagement with the public.
“We see healthcare going from a model done to you by the system when it deems appropriate to a 21st century world where empowered healthcare citizens take responsibility for their health when given the information, choices and support to do that.”
The NIB was set up under the chairmanship of NHS England's director of patients and information, Tim Kelsey, to bring together the bodies given responsibility for IT policy, commissioning and delivery by the Lansley reforms of the NHS.
The board, which was originally called the Informatics Services Commissioning Group, has steadily become more important as its membership has expanded. The Health and Social Care Information Centre became a full member a year ago.
Much of its public meeting was taken up with a discussion of the different workstreams that have been established to take forward the ideas in PHaC 2020, which tried to align healthcare IT with NHS policy and business imperatives.
A number of projects are due to be delivered this year. However, many are still in their 'discovery' phrase, and won't emerge as 'roadmaps' until the summer.
Lynda Thomas, interim chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said that acting quickly could also help gain public support for the proposals and restore trust in the NHS’s use of patient data.
“There is a lack of trust out there about what we are going to do with patient data…perhaps we need to reframe this and start telling a very compelling story about why this is necessary.”