The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) has set out a five-year technology strategy that aims to make the UK a world leader in the development and use of health and social care apps by 2020.
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HSCIC, which describes itself as “a national provider of high-quality information, data and IT systems for health and social care”, sponsored by the Department of Health, already supports core NHS England systems such as Summary Care Records, e-prescriptions and the central NHS Spine messaging infrastructure.
The new strategy, issued in draft form for consultation, sets out the organisation’s vision for how technology will support healthcare in 2020.
“The health and social care system faces unprecedented challenges. Constraints on resources, coupled with rising expectations and an escalating demand for services, are placing the current models of health and social care under increasing strain,” said HSCIC chair Kingsley Manning and CEO Andy Williams in a joint foreword to the document. “The better use of technology and data is central to bringing these changes about.”
The plan calls for the implementation of a common digital platform for integrated healthcare, and the use of new applications and devices – such as wearable technology – to improve services.
“[By 2020] the HSCIC will have helped the UK become be a world leader in the development and use of health and social care apps. The UK will be recognised globally as the most attractive place to launch radically new ways of using data, information and digital technologies to deliver fundamentally different forms of care,” said the strategy.
Underpinning the focus on digital will be a common technology architecture that supports organisations across health and social care.
“We will create a new architecture for the sector’s technology and data services and extend a framework of standards to encourage interoperability and the development of new, digitally enabled services,” said the HSCIC strategy.
“We will enable safe and secure information sharing so that carers and clinicians have timely and reliable information about those in their care, and citizens can see and contribute to information held about them. We will do this in partnership with care providers and the software market.”
The HSCIC also expects the next five years to bring new healthcare innovations that are even now yet to be considered.
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“By 2020, we will have catalysed some revolutionary and citizen-driven solutions that use new forms of sophisticated, digitally-enabled care not thought of in 2015. We will have evidence that demonstrates the return on technology investments in terms of substantial safety, economic and productivity benefits,” it said.
The plan stresses the importance of making better use of healthcare information and of ensuring protection of patients’ data, but makes no mention of the controversial NHS England Care.data programme for sharing medical records, which the HSCIC has been commissioned to deliver.
“Citizens need to have confidence that their personal data is being handled safely and securely. We recognise that in the current climate there is legitimate public concern,” said the strategy document.
The HSCIC plan follows on from the NHS England Personalised Health and Care 2020 framework published in November last year, which presented a set of requirements, proposals and case studies to ensure the delivery of digital health and care information up to 2020.
The framework made a requirement of health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s objective for the NHS to go paperless by 2018 and for all NHS England patients to have online access to their medical records by April 2015.
The HSCIC will play a key role in supporting the aims of the NHS framework.