NHS England and Improvement
An ambition to make health and social care interoperable was proving difficult. We gathered evidence to help shape a national strategy.
In March 2021, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care gave a speech about the critical importance technology has played in the coronavirus response.
He highlighted how interoperability - joining up IT systems to allow instant data-sharing - has the potential to transform health and social care.
We were engaged by NHSX (now NHS England and Improvement) to carry out a discovery phase into a digital solution that could move the government closer to its ambition of an interoperable health and social care system.
Over 4 weeks carried out a discovery that explored:
In total we carried out 28 sessions with users, identifying over 60 user needs and 9 high level problems that need to be solved for interoperability to be achieved. These are:
1. Difficulty finding standards - standards are published by multiple organisations and there’s nowhere to see standards by care setting or use case.
2. Low levels of understanding - interoperability, standards and the benefits they bring aren’t well understood.
3. Lack of mandation and enforcement - users want the NHS to decide which interoperability standards to use and then mandate and enforce them.
4. Issues with contracts and procurement - contracts don’t always list the correct standards or stipulate that data must be owned by care settings.
5. Standards development can be slow - early adopters are happy using experimental standards but others are waiting for them to be finalised.
6. Uncertainty around funding - there’s no funding to align health care providers’ existing solutions to minimum standards.
7. Healthcare providers have competing priorities - with many other problems to solve it’s important to win hearts and minds.
8. Difficulty accessing central data services - this includes services such as the Patient Demographic Service.
9. People find it hard to get support - this is a niche area so connecting people working on similar problems can help drive adoption.
NHS England and Improvement now has a rich source of clear evidence with which to inform their overarching strategy.
To help them move forward we produced:
Feedback from NHSX’s senior leaders has been extremely positive.
“I just want to say: amazing work all! Thank you. Really impressed with [your final] report” Irina Bolychevsky, NHSX Director of Standards and Interoperability
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