INTEROPen accelerates development of NHS interoperability standards

New action group developed to support delivery of Code4Health Interoperability Community

Twenty-nine industry-leading organisations have come together to create INTEROPen, a supplier action group aimed at accelerating the development of open standards for interoperability in the health and social care sectors.

There have been instances in the past where interoperability standards have been developed in isolation, without supplier involvement, and as a result have not considered the practical implementation

The group has been set up to support the delivery of the Code4Health Interoperability Community that was launched by NHS England in November 2015 by providing a forum for suppliers to collaborate on the design and application of technical interoperability standards. The group has identified four key areas that, if interoperability standards are effectively developed, will deliver demonstrable shared care across care settings. These are:

  • Data exchange – the development of data exchanges between different care settings
  • Data validation – the establishment and validation of FHIR based profiles for the exchange of data
  • Defining APIs – creating a definition for APIs that support automated notifications about patient care sent between service providers
  • Governance – the requirements for technical governance rules, security mechanisms for the handling of data and architectures that support locally developed shared care records

The standards will comply with techUK’s Interoperability Charter

Commenting on the news, Paul Cooper, vice chairman of techUK Health and Social Care Council, industry representative for the Code4Health Interoperability Community, and research directo at IMS MAXIMS, said: “There have been instances in the past where interoperability standards have been developed in isolation, without supplier involvement, and as a result have not considered the practical implementation. This has often resulted in poor take-up and ineffectual 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. 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.”

The group will work closely with the Code4Health Interoperability Community and will look to collaborate with the clinical community.

Dr Amir Mehrkar, sharing the industry representative role on the Code4Health Interoperability Community with Paul Cooper, as GP and chief information officer for Orion Health said: “This is truly an open, inclusive, collaborative movement. Clinicians, such as our colleagues in the Professional Records Standards Body, as well as industry and public sector clinical informaticians, are key to ensuring the right information is primed to be shared when a patient is in need of care.”

This sends a really-strong signal out to health and care organisations that suppliers are serious and committed to opening up their systems and are actively working in this space

The action group has the support of NHS England and HSCIC and will be actively demonstrating its outputs – the flow of data between domains and between different supplier IT systems – through activities and events such as connectathons and live demonstrations, planned for later in the year.

Indi Singh, head of enterprise architecture at NHS England, said: “This is great news. It sends a really-strong signal out to health and care organisations that suppliers are serious and committed to opening up their systems and are actively working in this space. 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.”

The group is open to all health and social care IT suppliers to join and contribute to its development.

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