UK health authorities back supplier IT interoperability group

Neil Merrett Published 14 June 2016

INTEROPen action group is expected to build on NHS England's work around developing technology and data standards to help meet wider care transformation aims


NHS England, the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) and industry body techUK have given their backing to a new grouping of IT service providers that will focus on setting out standards for more interoperable, data-led care systems.

Under the name INTEROPen, the 'supplier action group' will initially bring together 29 different organisations as a means of coordinating the development of open standards for health and social care systems.

Service interoperability and the closer integration of health and social care are among some of the key focuses outlined in NHS England's 'Five Year Forward View' plan, which is designed to try and address funding pressures up to 2020.

As part of the action group's work, four specific focuses have been identified as part of efforts to outline standards that are expected to comply with techUK's Interoperability Charter that relates to open, freely available systems. The outcome of this work is intended to meet international standards where possible.

The four areas that the group intends to focus on are:

- Data exchange: to develop information sharing between different care settings
- Data validation: establishing and validating Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) based profiles
- Defining Application Programming Interfaces (APIs): Developing APIs that will allow for automated notifications about a patient's care to be sent to different service providers
- Governance: setting out technical governance rules and security needs for systems that will handle data and locally developed shared care records

INTEROPen has been founded in order to support the work of the Code4Health Interoperability Community that was launched last November by NHS England to try and allow service providers to work together on devising standards for more interoperable systems.

NHS England's head of Enterprise Architecture Indi Singh said the new group showed the interest among suppliers in opening up their own systems to support a drive for further innovation and shared developments built around industry standards.

"It also reflects the move to active collaboration between localities, vendors and national organisations through the interoperability community and bringing together our collective influence in co-developing standards and approaches needed to meet priority needs," said Singh.

Paul Cooper, who serves as vice chair of techUK's Health and Social Care Council, as well as research director for supplier IMS Maxims, argued that previous attempts at drawing up interoperability standards had failed to include suppliers and were seen as being impractical to implement. Cooper argued this approach had in turn led to poor take-up of the resulting standards.

"The INTEROPen action group has been set up specifically to address the issue. We have created an environment where standards will be developed by those that know what the market really needs - the suppliers," he said. "Only this approach will ensure interoperability can support the delivery of the new models of care that are so necessary to achieve the transformation needed in the NHS."

With both NHS England and HSCIC supporting the group's work, a number of events such as 'connectathons' will be held later in 2016 to begin demonstrating efforts to support the exchange of data between different systems and domains.

A full list of the organisations making up the action group can be found here.

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