Interoperability has become the highest single priority issue for NHS IT Leaders, according to the findings of the 2018 NHS IT Leadership Survey.
An overwhelming 82% of respondents said that interoperability that enabled systems and staff to share information on patients was their highest priority. In the 2017 edition of the survey, the figure was just 51%.
The next highest priorities identified were clinical engagement, identified by 76%; moving to paperless working (73%); and ensuring a reliable, resilient, secure infrastructure (67%).
The annual NHS IT Leadership Survey, carried out by Digital Health Intelligence, exclusively surveys the priorities and concerns of NHS digital leaders, including the most senior IT professionals and doctors and nurses working on digital projects.
The in-depth report provides a snapshot of the views of healthcare IT leaders in 2018.
A scattering of cloud
Another key finding for 2018 was that use of cloud services is rising across the health service, starting from a low base. In 2017, 21% of respondents said their organisation did not use cloud-based services for any part of their IT operation. This figure dropped to just 8% in the 2018 survey.
There was a sharp increase in positivity from NHS IT leaders, with almost 60% of respondents saying they felt the outlook was a positive one and just 9% thinking it was negative.
This reflects a significant change in mood from 2017, when 55% said the outlook was negative and 27% felt it was positive.
However, there were decidedly mixed opinions on NHS England’s flagship Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) and Fast Follower programmes, which are channelling limited investment into the most digitally-advanced trusts, to provide role-models for others.
Just 12% of NHS IT leaders said they thought the programme is accelerating NHS-wide digitisation though providing leadership and visible benefits.
One respondent, a CIO in an acute trust, said GDE had delivered benefits: “It has in the GDEs and will provide evidence for others.”
However, an overwhelming 82% of respondents said the GDE and Fast Follower programmes are creating an even greater gap between the digital haves and have-nots, and questioned the benefits. Some 5% said they didn’t know.
One typical response, from a nurse digital leader in a mixed acute and community trust, said: “I think it has created a digital divide that is getting wider with the many (non GDE\FF) allowed to slip further behind and are unsupported to digitalise.”
Optimism that the NHS will be paper-light by 2020 – a long-standing government target – continues to fall, with now less than half of NHS IT leaders questioned believing the target will be reached.
However, 71% were confident their organisation would be paper-light by 2023.
The 2018 survey had 150 responses from NHS IT leaders from acute, mental health and community trusts, primary care organisations, clinical commissioning groups, commissioning support units, together with NHS organisations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Full copies of the survey report are available to subscribers to Digital Health Intelligence and all NHS IT leaders who completed the survey.
2 August 2018 @ 12:41
It is good, albeit belated, news that IT leaders have finally realised that interoperability is the most important thing. But my experience, as a patient, is that IT leaders only talk to each other, not to clinicians and hospital managers. It is they who should be persuaded that IT does not stop at the hospital/surgery gate. It is only when they are finally persuaded that interoperability and data sharing is vital to any progress in the NHS, that we patients will get a safe, fast healthcare service.
I speak as a simple ignorant patient who applauded the launch of what was laughingly called “Connecting for health” back in 2003, but, 15 years later, still only gets something approaching seamless data-sharing between my GP and one of the three local hospitals.
Get your fingers out, IT leaders. Just voting for interoperability is not good enough. You are not making it happen for your patients. Reading the other comments on this article from clever IT gurus, you are still arguing about issues which should have been resolved a decade ago.
1 August 2018 @ 12:23
Disagree – we should really consider what we are integrating before a headless charge for integration this will only slow progress. i.e. don’t integrate systems that are fundamentally not fit for purpose and already out dated and very challenging to improve due to poor architecture and design.
Move to modern architecture first, break up big services into manageable chunks, improve the users’ experiences – then integrate to fill in the gaps.
27 July 2018 @ 15:38
Interoperability has never been the problem, getting major suppliers to share data without putting up major spurious and expensive obstacles has been the problem. Let’s see them get data out of T**, E***, V***** and C***** into their LCHREs ….
29 July 2018 @ 23:54
3 August 2018 @ 15:39
What stops the NHS mandating vendor compliance with data standards where they exist? There is little motivation for established vendors to adopt but much for new ones entering the market.
27 July 2018 @ 14:50
Accepting Ruth’s comment, the only form of interop that can possibly be acceptable to users is single sign-up. My understanding of the design principles of this wave of interoperabilty is that they will be based on open standards and intelligent credentials based. Health and Social Care practitioners will have a single universal id credential that will allow them to access patient records and supplementary data via their primary native system whether that be in primary care, hospital, ambulance service or social care provider. The technology platforms are here, the real challenges centre on take up of new ways of working and that includes the public too.
26 July 2018 @ 22:37
Interoperability is like horses for courses. Sometimes it’s providing record sharing, sometimes it’s seamlessly accessing other systems using patient context and sometimes it’s API calls to request bite size information. Where you have well embedded, well liked and effective systems that can’t be absorbed or replaced by larger truly integrated systems there will always be a need for interoperability. The trick is to focus on the users need first, ensure the technical plan can deliver this and be realistic considering time and budget constraints. Fortunately there are many well tried and tested technical approaches underpinned by standards that make interoperability less of a technical headache and more of a user experience challenge.
26 July 2018 @ 17:45
In NI there was a great deal of money used to create ‘interoperability’ however it is time consuming to use ….2 passwords to access it and no better than the excellent system we already had….so i think it could be a gigantic waste of money that could be better used ….like funding more nurses
26 July 2018 @ 15:53
For those involved in the delivery of direct care, (health or social care) do you really need interoperability across and between systems or is it not the case that what is needed is the ability to provide data at the point of care regardless of the source system.
Currently there seems, to me at least, a misguided drive toward getting Systems to inter-operate rather than allowing care providers to operate across organisational boundaries.
27 July 2018 @ 08:17
What I’ve heard at the coal face is exactly what you suggest, it is to get the information at the point of care. So technically a number of simple questions: when are you going to see X next, what interventions did you do when you visited X last, etc.
Rather than sending documents/messages between systems which is technically more complex and doesn’t necessarily deliver the information to a care worker in a easy to use form (it’s hidden in a PDF somewhere).