All healthcare IT vendors must commit to an open approach to data collected by their systems, NHS England’s national director of operations and information has said.
In his keynote address to the 2017 Health and Care Innovation Expo, Matthew Swindells said software providers should “not be protective about ‘your’ data – the data belongs to the patient”.
He continued: “If the patient wants you to share what you’ve got with another clinician who’s treating them, I don’t want to see vendors locking the data down, and I don’t want to see hospitals treating patient data as if it were some sort of market opportunity.”
Swindells urged those working within the NHS to “drive openness and data sharing into the system” by only choosing vendors who took such an approach. NHS bodies should, he said, be “really grippy” on the subject.
Current developments within the service could support this, he suggested.
“In our GDE programmes and as we go back out to procurement to refresh the GP systems of choice, we will be making open data, interoperability, secure access to patients’ data a requirement from all of those systems.”
The regional innovation hubs – which were a focus of NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens’ Expo keynote and are due to be put into place at the end of the year – will also be a way of being “really clear about which vendors are sharing and which vendors aren’t”.
He did express the belief that some companies were beginning to understand the need to share information for the benefit of patient care.
He gave the example of primary care suppliers – “who’ve been much maligned over the years about playing within their walled gardens – now talking about “interoperability, population health, the need to be able share data across boundaries.”
“That to me is symbolic of the sea change we’re seeing everywhere.”
Swindells’ 20 minute speech also made requests of those working with the NHS. He argued every board must put IT “at the top of their agenda” and be thinking about “how do I use new technologies to drive the changes I’m making rather than IT being in a corner”.
Members of IT departments, meanwhile, should “get out and be part of that innovation – to be getting out and actually making the case as to how we can use technology to transform care”.
Interoperability has long been a challenge for NHS IT. In February, a National Audit Office report concluded that poor information sharing between health and social care was one of the greatest barriers to increased integration between the two sectors.