Software vendors to the NHS have witnessed a changing and evolving environment over recent years. Anticipating such change, and designing products to address the new realities has been a challenging and interesting process.
Modern software must be much more than a series of isolated function-specific “silos”. Instead, software must deliver powerful and applicable features and functions at the point of use, but also share information with other NHS IT investments wherever possible. And the possibilities are significant.
Sharing information can be considered in several ways. On a technical level, it means designing products that are able to share information with other IT systems (“interfacing”) and having a data structure that permits the meaningful use of that information once shared. In this way, new IT investments genuinely add value by reducing data re-entry, re-using data that has been entered for other purposes and at other times, and aggregating data for “downstream” uses in clinical, administrative and financial settings.
On a usability level, software vendors can learn from and make use of the major clinical standards. The NHS is moving to SNOMED-CT and an examination of this major standard provides the vendor with insights into the organisation, use and re-use of information. This not only means that technical integration can be improved, but also leads to better value for users and the value of everyday work. An example includes the coding of activity (or the improvement in the accuracy of coding) at the point of use, with no overhead on the user of the product.
Standards have the advantage of peer-reviewed perspectives; the outcome of comprehensive and expert consultation over time. This means that the software vendors that take an interest in standards are able to integrate better with the products offered by other vendors, offer more value to the NHS as a whole, and avoid the creation of new silos.
It’s an exciting but testing time for NHS IT. The challenges are, as ever, very significant. Cost pressure, more significant now than ever, inevitably drives many decisions.
However, this leaves room for smart investments in technology that works. Best of breed products which deliver powerful functionality at the point of use, add value to partner vendors, and contribute overall to the quality and availability of information.
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