Clinical IT veteran Michael Thick has joined IMS Maxims as the company’s chief medical officer and chief clinical information officer.

Thick is probably best known for his work as chief clinical information officer for the National Programme for IT, where he led the 2008 ‘Health Informatics Review.’

This set out to support the aims of Professor Sir (later Lord) Ara Darzi’s ‘Next Stage Review’ of the NHS, which advocated greater integration between health and care services and new models of care ‘closer to home’, and to kindle new enthusiasm for IT among clinicians.

The review led to the introduction of the idea of the ‘clinical 5’ to NHS IT, which remains the basis for clinical functionality within hospitals today. It also underpins the model used in Digital Health Intelligence’s Clinical Digital Maturity Index.

Thick, who started his career as a consultant transplant surgeon, more recently worked with McKesson UK, where he led on clinical strategy and governance.

Yesterday, he told Digital Health News that he found his job winding down after McKesson UK decided to dispose of its electronic patient record business (now System C) but he wanted to find a similar role.

“I have known Shane [Tickell, the chief executive of IMS Maxims] for a long time, and when he heard I was looking around he asked me to come on board,” he said.

Thick added that he “said yes” because the NHS is once again looking at a “new era” in which it will be asked to transform health and care.

Also, because IT will have a crucial role to play in that transformation and “clinicians need to be involved”. And because he feels MS Maxims really understands the agenda.

“For me, the really important point is that this organisation understands the transformation agenda and the requirement for change, and is prepared to build the systems required to respond to that,” he said.

He also argued the NHS has a financial imperative to respond to the ‘Five Year Forward View’ drawn up by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens. This shares some similarities to the Darzi vision, which was overtaken by a change of government.

“We can’t afford to continue to do what we do now,” he said. “We have to change.” However, he acknowledged that this will be difficult because of the “political” environment in which the NHS has to operate and the inertia within a system as large as the NHS.

IMS Maxims, he argued, can be more agile. The company has pioneered the use of open source EPRs in the NHS by releasing the code for its openMaxims product suite, and forming a community interest company to develop it.

The CIC is backed by three trusts, Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, which is getting ready to go-live with the system, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which are long-standing users of an older IMS Maxims PAS.

Thick said he was interested in the idea of open source mainly because it held out the possibility of giving organisations more control over the software they used, and of spreading good ideas quickly.  

 “The idea of giving organisations some control over their software, because it is free is a good one. The CIC idea is a good one,” he said.

“At the moment, procurement takes a long time, so if [the open source model] speeds that up that will be a good thing. Whether [open source] is cheaper to deploy and maintain [than proprietary software] has not been proved, yet. But the idea is good.”

Tickell said in a statement that he had been keen to appoint Thick to the CMO and CCIO roles because “clinical safety should be at the heart of any healthcare software.”

“We’ve held that as our company ethos since the beginning and have continued to innovate and develop our solutions alongside clinicians over nearly 30 years,” he added.

“We welcome Michael to our growing team of talented individuals as we continue to recruit quality personnel committed to improving patient outcomes.”  

Thick qualified as a doctor in 1976 and went on to become director of liver and renal transplantation at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

He served as chair of the IM&T steering committee for the city’s hospitals, and was later senior medical advisor to the Choose and Book and National PACS Programme, before becoming NHS Connecting for Health’s first chief clinical officer.

Until recently, he was a professor of genomics at Imperial College London, and remains extremely interested in linking genomics data with EPR data, in order to deliver personalised medicine.

Michael Thick was a supporter of the EHI CCIO Campaign, and is a member of the CCIO Network. Tomorrow (Friday, 12 June), Digital Health launches a new network for chief clinical information officers and other clinical IT leaders working in companies supplying the UK healthcare IT market. Join a free webinar at 12.30 for more details.