NHSX publishes update on its work around standards and interoperability

NHSX has published new information on its progress around standards and interoperability, sharing why these areas are important and what it’s working on with partners across the NHS.

In the new update, attributed to Irina Bolychevsky, Director of Standards and Interoperability at NHSX, the post covers what interoperability and standards are, their role in healthcare, and also shares the organisation’s current top five priorities.

‘An introduction to standards and interoperability at NHSX’ states that: “Interoperability is when different systems and products can seamlessly exchange, making use of data and information across system and organisational boundaries. It is a decades-old challenge and a long-time priority. While there’s still a long way to go, we have a plan.” It also explains standards as protocols which, when adopted, can provide that interoperability.

Explaining the importance of interoperability in health and care, the publication says that “the NHS and care sectors are too diverse for a one-size-fits-all single IT system to be the answer” but that “equally” having “thousands of different systems that do not speak to each other” is also not the answer.

“The only way that tech can work in a complex health and care system,” the release says, “is for clear, open standards to be set, effectively incentivised and enforced where appropriate” so that local providers can make their own choices, as long as they are compliant.

The publication says that while “important progress has been made…the interoperability agenda has further to go” and goes on to outline the aims and work of the the Standards and Interoperability team at NHSX.

Saying that the “process for standards development and compliance will be streamlined through a robust model for standards development and implementation”, the NHSX team will be working with “NHS Digital, the wider NHS, the social care sector, standards bodies and the vendor community” to establish those “fit-for-purpose interoperability standards”.

The NHSX team’s five main priorities within this body of work are outlined as including: a new end-to-end process and governance model for standards development, to provide accountability and responsibilities; publishing a Standards and Interoperability Strategy to act as a framework; publishing an open source playbook to provide “tangible guidance and advice”; a long-term roadmap for standards and interoperability, including a timeline; and the launch of a new standards portal to provide clarity and enable collaboration and sharing.

The release of this latest update follows on from NHSX’s September publication of its new Digital Clinical Safety Strategy, which explains aims around improving the safety of digital technologies in health and care and identifying and promoting the use of digital technologies as solutions to patient safety challenges.

In addition, the organisation has also recently revealed plans for a new National Strategy for AI in Health and Social Care, which has the goal of supporting the deployment of AI at scale.

All of these announcements also follow hot on the heels of NHSX’s ‘What good Looks Like‘ and Information Governance frameworks, which were also shared with the public across the past few months.