Exclusive: NHS IT 'too fragmented' to cope with integrated care

Healthcare IT systems are currently too isolated for new models of care to succeed, an IT expert and former GP has warned.

IT systems are 'too fragmented' to support NHS integration plans
IT systems are 'too fragmented' to support NHS integration plans

Dr David Stables, a founder of the GP practice IT system EMIS, says that care is being hindered as a result of poorly connected IT systems.

‘The IT industry has been caught out,’ he told GPonline. ‘A lot of systems are fragmented and information is isolated in silos. Care is really suffering because the information isn’t exchanged effectively enough across the NHS.’

The piecemeal approach to record-sharing could damage the viability of integrated care schemes such as the new 'vanguard' sites trialling new models of care, he said.

GP IT integration

‘In the last six to eight months, there’s been a massive difference with the prime minister’s Challenge Fund, and the vanguards, and all of a sudden people are realising they need integrated IT systems,’ Dr Stables said. ‘It’s caught the IT industry off-guard.’

Dr Stables has set up charity Endeavour Health to help set up data exchange between systems. It is developing ‘middleware’ to join up the programmes, which it will make freely available as open-source software with no intellectual property restrictions.

‘I think this data sharing should be part of the infrastructure of the NHS, rather than being locked into provider organisations or supplier systems,’ he said.

‘If you’ve got the right consent and the right governance and the right security, you should be able to have access to the information that you need without having to buy a particular system to record the data.’

Digital patient records

NHS England hopes to make its digital systems interoperable by 2020, and Dr Stables says his efforts should help to speed this up.

Beverley Bryant, NHS England’s director of digital technology, told GPonline: ‘NHS England is committed to helping digitise and integrate patient information across health and care.

‘We are working to support doctors, nurses and care staff to move from paper-based clinical records to integrated digital care records, making information sharing easier and ensuring patients only tell their story once.’

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