The director of informatics at NHS England, Professor Jonathan Kay, wants to see a chief clinical information officer (CCIO) in every NHS provider and clinical commissioning group.
Speaking at the Gov Today Digital Healthcare event in London yesterday, he said it is important for CCIOs to be aware of what is possible with health and technology, and they should talk to other CCIOs across the country about what works and doesn’t work.
“This is something we’re notoriously bad at in the NHS - transporting good practice around the organisation quickly,” he said.
He also said that joining up electronic health records will be a local priority over the next few years, and would not become a national project like Summary Care Records or NHS Choices.
“There isn’t a big national interoperability project that’s going to do that, the action is in local interoperability projects like in Leeds, Cumbria and Hampshire, where local providers are getting together with existing systems and saying they’ll make this work.”
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In his speech discussing a multitude of digital processes in healthcare, Kay said it is difficult to see the cash benefits from some digital projects.
“You have to put a lot of money into it to get it to work,” he said. “The benefits are slow to be delivered and don’t always occur during the career of the director of finance.”
But Kay said the NHS needs to work with more SMEs to make a lot of the projects happen.
As well as joining up patient medical records, the devices used within healthcare also need to be more connected. Kay said computers are built into every medical device used in a hospital, but, quite often, none of them will be connected to each other.
“And you’ll end up having a nurse running back and forth with a biro writing down what the devices say,” he said.
Last year health secretary Jeremy Hunt challenged the NHS to become paperless by 2018, but Kay noted that hospitals are still not close to achieving this goal. Kay said young doctors starting their careers today will have got their A-level results online, applied for university online using UCAS and applied for the job online too. “Then they hit a ward in an NHS hospital, and you put a clipboard in front of them,” he said.