Dr Robert Wachter’s review of the digital future of the NHS will focus on issues of clinical engagement with IT implementations, particularly the role of chief clinical information officers.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced last October that the best-selling author of 'The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine's Computer Age', was to lead a review of the use of technology in the NHS.

The terms of reference for Wachter’s review – Making IT work: harnessing the power of health IT to improve care in England – have been published today and say it will have a particular focus on issues around successful clinical engagement and implementation.

Wachter, who is a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, has indicated that he sees the role of CCIOs as key to improving adoption of digital technologies.

He met with a number of CCIOs at a Health and Social Care Information Centre open day held in Leeds last week.

Chair of the Digital Health CCIO Network Dr Joe McDonald said Wachter spoke about chief medical information officers in the US having “rock star status”.

“They (CMIOs) are highly paid and highly sought after and generally on the board because in the US their IT system is key to getting paid,” said McDonald.

He joked that CCIOs in the UK are “not quite at rock star stage yet” and more importantly, not every organisation has a CCIO.

“Maybe once there’s more coverage we can aspire to rock star status, but we’re a little way off that at the moment,” he added.

Wachter told the group of CCIOs that the importance of the clinical role has been recognised more quickly in the US and he was “generally very positive about the role of CCIOs and the network”, added McDonald.

Wachter and his advisory group, which includes former national director for patients and information at NHS England Tim Kelsey, are due to report back to Hunt and the National Information Board in June this year.

The terms of reference say the review will: “Inform the English health and care system’s approach to the further implementation of IT in healthcare, in particular the use of electronic health records and other digital systems in the acute sector, to achieve the ambition of a paper free health and care system by 2020”.  

The group will produce recommendations for the successful adoption of health information systems and the best ways to engage with clinicians in the use of IT.

They will look at current capacity within trusts in understanding and commissioning of health IT and the impact of these systems on clinical workflows and on the relationship between patients and their clinicians and carers.

Evidence will be gathered through a combination of written evidence, meetings with senior figures in the health and care system, and trust site visits "with varied experience of implementing IT systems".

McDonald described Wachter as a “very sensible reasonable man, surrounded by bright people” and said he is looking forward to the release of his report.