Digital integration and interoperability

EHI Live is the biggest and most vibrant UK IT healthcare show, where the eHealth community comes together to meet, network and discuss current challenges and developments in healthcare IT. Health Business looks back at November’s event.

EHI Live is the UK’s largest and most popular digital health event. It has become one of the big three must-attend health management shows in the calendar, bringing together the biggest players in digital health, along with some of the most influential people within the NHS, public health and the wider e-health sector.

Taking place at the NEC Birmingham, the show has grown so much that over two days in early November, EHI Live 2015 welcomed over 3,900 attendees visiting 159 exhibitors and coming to hear over 90 speakers in 14 conferences. Visitor numbers were up 10 per cent on the previous year, and of the 2,775 IT healthcare professionals participating, 35 per cent represented the NHS.

It was an opportunity to tackle the big industry issues such as IT leadership, big data, cloud technology and security, wearables, imaging informatics, open source data standards and governance, and social media. Conference streams included national conferences for CCIOs and for health CIOs organised by Digital Health.

Integration and interoperability
A common theme was integration and interoperability. Besides a dedicated conference on health and social care integration, the issue was raised by a number of key note speakers including Tim Kelsey. He was giving one of his last speeches as NHS England’s National Director for Patients and Information before taking up a new role in Australia. He said that interoperability is a ‘fundamental requirement’ to achieve the 2020 targets set out in the Personalised Health and Care 2020 strategy, which has evolved under the NHS Five Year Forward View.

Kelsey called for continued effort to make all parts of the health and care service technologies able to ‘talk’ to each other, so that online patient records can allow patients to transfer seamlessly through the health and care system. The Electronic Patient Record is one such project, and he called on EPR suppliers to work with clinicians, as well as each other, to make the system fit for purpose. Not only will this benefit patient care it will also help contribute to the necessary cost efficiencies required for the NHS. And he warned that more needs to be done to make sure technology failures do not ruin people lives and delay treatment or care.

Digital Primary care
Tracey Grainger, NHS England’s Head of Digital Primary Care, welcomed the introduction of a dedicated Digital Primary Care Programme conference stream. Sponsored by Elsevier Clinical Solutions and NHS England, the DPC conference’s full two-day agenda was designed so that speakers from NHS England and the wider NHS could update delegates with the progress being made on ‘achieving the fundamental vision set out in the Five Year Forward View and the National Information Board Framework, Personalised Health and Care 2020’.

Highlights of the presentations singled out by Grainger included the achievements that have been made already in improving patient access to their GP. She noted that one significant statistic from the ‘Making time in general practice’ study worth noting was that ‘if 30 per cent of patients in a 10,000 patient practice accessed their records twice a year, this would save 4,747 appointments and 8,020 telephone calls with a cost saving of £29 per patient’.

She also shared findings from the first independent National Evaluation Report for improving access to general practice. Going digital ‘has the potential to transform primary care, as long as the infrastructure and high quality IT clinical systems facilitate this and is supported by an open and vibrant technology market’.

Blogging about the event, Grainger summed up her experience: “EHI Live had great energy and it was lovely to see so many people supporting the Digital Primary Care Programme. I am really looking forward to next year to showcase more amazing work ahead!”

Paper-free progress
Another key note speaker, Beverley Bryant, who is Director of Digital Technology at NHS England, talked about the progress being made towards an NHS being paper-free at the point of care. Beverley suggested that everyone must think of digital technology as a vital component to healthcare, not a ‘nice to have’ element.

She said: “We are mindful of placing administrative burdens on providers – but the goal is not to fill the form in, the goal is to use the technology.” Among the steps being taken to achieve this is the establishment of the Digital Maturity Assessment to establish to what degree healthcare services in England are supported by the effective use of digital technology. All clinical commissioning groups had already started the process by reporting back on which providers were included in the local ‘digital roadmaps’ drawn up by the CCGs in late summer. Similarly, CCGs were also assessing general practices’ digital maturity.

Other developments taking place were the upgrade to the NHS e-Referral Service, a replacement for Choose and Book allowing patients to book, cancel or change appointments online. Beverley said that the new service had worked through teething problems and user feedback was indicating it was fit for purpose. Bryant also mentioned that NHS England was considering bringing in a system to accredit or benchmark IT interoperability.

EHI Live was chosen as the setting for the launch of the Code4Health Interoperability Community by Inderjit Singh, NHS England’s Head of Enterprise Architecture. This has the mission to create a common and open set of application programme interfaces (APIs) to support information sharing across health and care.

Another item that generated interest was the Health and Social Care Information Centre announcing that the Health and Social Care Network was likely to get Cabinet approval by the end of November, paving the way for it to replace the N3 network from April 2017. Visitors were also intrigued to see a tele-health system operating on a Raspberry Pi device but allowing patients and GPs to communicate via the NHS Spine. Notably, the hardware component parts cost under £100.

Innovation introduced by Informa
Informa Life Sciences exhibition, the team behind Arab Health, the world’s second largest medical show, purchased EHI Live in November 2014. The organisers were keen to introduce new ideas into the show, and among the innovation for 2015 was the introduction of a 3D digital printing zone. It also expanded the EHI Live Social Media Village which proved popular, bringing together delegates to share ideas about making social media work for the benefit of patients and citizens. Tweeters, bloggers, LinkedIn users and others shared ideas formally and informally about how these platforms can be used to facilitate and improve patient care.

Other showcase events were the Handi Health Apps and Pipeline Sessions. In the Handi Health Apps forum, speakers included practising health professionals actively involved in developing in health technology as well as IT industry specialists. Topics ranged included open eco digital systems, app accreditation and app case studies. Pipeline presentations covered topics such as the activist consumer, healthcare content in context, the development of patient manager systems, and the hybrid cloud for health ICT agility.

In the Health and Social Care Integration Conference, Diarmaid Crean, Deputy Director – Digital for Public Health England, warned of the challenges faced in developing a new NHS endorsement model for healthcare apps, rating the odds of success at 50:50. A new system will replace the NHS Apps Library which closed at the end of October, and will take into account aspects including self-assessment by app developers, as well as evaluation by an independent organisation, he said.

Exhibitor launches
Among the other launches were two by techUK, the membership body for over 850 IT companies. It launched a paper on Personal Digital Care, looking at the barriers to adopting widespread technology enabled care and offering practical solutions to government and the industry on overcoming these challenges. It also featured a techUK start-up hub - where Ipros Cube, Patient Source, Policy Partners Project and Source Code Control were selected to exhibit.

IMMJ Systems launched its new Mediviewer electronic document management solution designed to provide a ‘best of breed’ medical records management solution, specifically designed to meet the needs of the NHS and other health providers. Among its key features are: its ability to recognise and order documents with or without a barcode; smart indexing, enabling clinicians to find patient information and related notes quickly and in their original context; and its presentation of records in a manner similar to the original paper record.

Positive feedback
Feedback from attendees was impressive, with 94 per cent saying the show had met or exceeded their expectations, and 88 per cent saying they had learnt something new. And one in two attendees said they found new suppliers they otherwise would not have considered using. The success of the event is in part down to EHI Live being a forum where tech-savvy clinicians can meet the industry IT directors and senior NHS managers with CCIOs, CIOs, and COOs in abundance. The opportunity for networking was enhanced with a big red London bus converted into a bar and cafe, and exhibitors enjoyed a show party hosted by Informa on the first evening. Bear in mind that 93 per cent of visitors to EHI Live 2015 said they intend to go to EHI Live 2016 which takes place on November 1-2 at NEC Birmingham.

Planning for November 2016 is underway to make it the go-to-event for people with real buying power in the UK to search for new solutions in IT healthcare.

Further Information