An independent campaign to develop a new open digital platform for health and care has received 48 open innovation exemplar bids from across the UK and Ireland, totaling more than £60m.
The campaign group is now calling on NHS England to commit, £40m, equivalenat to one per cent of national NHS IT investment, to fund the diverse range of open platform projects and applications. The 48 bids include commitments of £25m of match funding.
The initiative was developed by industry thought leaders Dr Tony Shannon, director of open source shared records initiative Ripple, and Digital Health columnist Ewan Davis.
Both of have called for the symbolic one per cent of health IT investment – £40m of the £4 billion investment promised for health IT – to be channeled into the development of an open platform and open applications to support personalised health and care.
The ‘One Per Cent Campaign’ argues that investment in an open platform and applications is vital to harness future innovation, enable SMEs to enter the health market and reduce the daunting current regulatory, technical and financial current barriers to market entry.
NHS England’s acute GDE programme is investing £160m in 16 acute GDEs and a further £100m in 20 fast followers, and up to £30m in six mental health GDEs. A grand total of £290m, with further waves of exemplars due in areas including Ambulance Trusts, Community and Population Health Management.
Dr Tony Shannon, told Digital Health News that while last year’s Wachter Review and subsequent Global Digital Exemplar programme focused on a small number of existing ‘elite’ digital leaders and current big EPR suppliers, the One Per Cent Campaign aims to be more forward looking and broadly based.
To gauge support, the concept of an independent open innovation exemplar fund was developed in January and expressions of interest invited. “One reason we did this was to enable us to evidence support for the open platform concept to NHS CIO Will Smart,” said Dr Shannon.
“An email has gone to Will and Professor Keith McNeill [NHS England CCIO] explaining that we have been involved in this push, and have been gathering expressions of interest in the challenge fund.”
“You just can’t deliver the full personalised care objectives of Personalised Health and Care 2020 (PHC2020) with the current generation of health and care systems – we believe the future must be based on a new open platform.”
He added, “The aim here is to try and see how this could seed exemplars of PHC2020 in action. This is not about giving funds to usual suspects but encouraging people to innovate.”
Dr Shannon said the response and bids received have been “very encouraging”, “high quality” and “carefully considered” and the process has “encouraged some people who have been waiting in the wings to step forward”.
The 48 bids received split into ones aimed at both developing open infrastructural components of an open platform while delivering related Personalised Care: Innovation Incubation and Exemplar Implementations to ensure value is delivered at the clinical frontline.
The Personalised Care Exemplar submissions include: a potential new open GP system: open Mental health system, open dental system, and shared record initiatives from England, Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Bids are as small as £15,000 and the largest is for Open GPSOC of £7.5m, with several at this level for big regional shared record projects. The average size is around £1m.
Dr Shannon said that a significant number of bids include a match funding commitment, “£25m may be available from expressions of interest saying they would be willing to match funds.”
He argued that an open platform is vital, “The monolith system will not work to my mind, and the 1,000 flowers post-NPfIT didn’t work. So we know the innovation in other industries are platform based.
“Other industries are now moving to the concept of bi-modal platform development, to speed up innovation and become more agile. It’s about not placing all your bets on one/few particular solutions, but developing a parallel open approach while maintaining business as usual,” said Dr Shannon.
“Healthcare is still waiting for the platform that will transform twenty-first century IT. When it arrives I believe it will release a wave of innovation we have not yet dreamed of.”
Crucially, he argued that an open platform would open up the market to new entrants. “The current barriers to entry of the NHS are so great as to be nearly insurmountable for SMEs.”
Dr Shannon said it was “too early to tell whether the appetite exists at the centre” to fund a disruptive platform for innovation and delivering PHC2020.”
“I do know this is aimed in the right direction, and if the NHS doesn’t want to fund it perhaps Innovate UK will, or we may crowd fund. We will find the funding come what may.”
Assuming funding is secured Dr Shannon said the aim was to use an independent body like the open platform advocate and Community Interest Company, the Apperta Foundation, to manage the bidding process and hold people to account.