System C & Graphnet Care Alliance has announced a commitment to ‘full FHIR support’ for all its shared records, EPR, child health and social care systems.

The comprehensive commitment is probably the most significant interoperability move yet by a major supplier operating in the UK health and care market.

As well as bolstering the ease with which information can be shared, the move – if successful – potentially positions the company to become a core platform upon which to develop future digital health services.

The FHIR-based APIs are promised across all System C and Graphnet products within two years. The first APIs will be released by the end of the year and are described as extensions of the internal APIs already used by System C and Graphnet.

The company further states that the new APIs will be based on FHIR standards and conform to the so far limited number of PRSB/NHS Digital/INTEROpen profiles.

The company has pledged its new FHIR-based APIs will be supported by a profiles library, test sandpits and accreditation services, and developer and user support services.

Graphnet’s interoperability platform will be the first product to launch, offering FHIR APIs to the CareCentric shared record software. CareCentric underpins shared records in Greater Manchester, Berkshire, Hampshire, Cheshire and Buckinghamshire.

Graphnet says the platform will give customers secure access to the wealth of real- time and near real-time information held in the CareCentric shared care record and provide a standard for integration with other healthcare applications.

It is envisaged this will allow for record sharing across organisational boundaries, linking one shared record system with another and creating a framework for open application development.

The company claims this will also enable the CareCentric shared record to become an integration and open application platform, encouraging new apps and new uses that drive improvements in patient care and in managing the health of a population.

The Alliance said it will launch cloud-based platforms which offer customers and authorised third parties a package of open APIs using FHIR-based standards.

The capability will be offered to all the company’s shared record customers.

The company says that next up after CareCentric will be social care, child health, vitals, clinical collaboration, alerts, connectivity for third-party patient facing apps, and a range of API packages for the Care Alliance’s PAS, EPR and clinical systems.

For social care, Liquidlogic is generating the nine FHIR messages necessary for hospital assessments, discharges and withdrawal notices.

“We interface or interoperate with over 2,000 deployed systems across the UK,” said Dr Ian Denley, joint CEO of System C & Graphnet Care Alliance. “What FHIR brings is a national standard set of messages for use right across the NHS and social care, and this will be a major step forward in delivering the joined-up care needed to improve patient outcomes.

“We believe that the progressive release of FHIR standards by NHS England will have a similar positive impact on APIs as HL7 did on standard interfacing.”

Brian Waters, chief executive of Graphnet, explained that Graphnet FHIR support builds on its existing APIs, originally developed for internal use.

“We are now finalising the delivery schedule for the FHIR resources and will release these in a rolling programme as and when they are formalised and published by NHS England, with the first releases available this financial year.”

Beverley Bryant, chief operating officer at System C & Graphnet Care Alliance, said: “The drive for interoperability between our systems and third parties has been steadily growing as our users across health and social care expand their adoption of health technologies.”

“We are writing to all our customers and will be meeting with them to discuss the level of supporting services required, including timescales for individual API packages and pricing models.”

Secretary of state for health and care Matt Hancock has emphasised a desire for national interoperability standards within healthcare. At the recent NHS Health and Care Innovation Expo, he promised to publish “robust standards” within the company weeks with any IT system being bought within the NHS must comply. “No system will be allowed to be bought that does not meet these standards,” he said.

But a desire for interoperability in the NHS is far from a new one, and progress has proved painfully slow in recent years.