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NHS to get open source API lab

NHS Digital plans on launching an API lab before the end of the year, with the goal accelerating development of interoperability in health and social care

The NHS will get an open application programming interface (API) lab before the end of 2017 to drive and create APIs for use in health and social care.  

NHS Digital has joined forces with the INTEROPen community to create the lab with the aim of joining up knowledge, expertise and ideas from developers both within NHS Digital and industry to create open APIs addressing interoperability and information sharing problems across health and social care.  

It also aims to make it easier to share and access patient information for clinicians at the point of care. 

The lab will run in a shared workspace in Leeds, and NHS Digital envisions developers from industry and public sector will do the work on a pro bono basis. Suppliers keen on being part of shaping the lab’s governance and principles are invited to submit expressions of interest to NHS Digital.

Richard Kavanagh, head of NHS Digital’s API lab, said it has huge potential to drive forward work on several open source APIs, which are needed in health and care.

“By partnering with INTEROPen we will be able to create APIs even faster, delivering real benefits for the health and care system,” he said.

INTEROPen is an organisation created through a collaboration of individuals, industry, standards organisations and health and care providers, with a common ethos of openness and transparency.

The organisation, which was created in 2016, is working to accelerate the development of interoperability in health and social care and focuses on four key areas, including the development of data exchanges between different care settings and data validation.

It is also focusing on creating a definition for APIs that support automated notifications about patient care sent between service providers.

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The INTEROPen board said the plans for the lab is “a very positive development in our work to identify the methodology for taking a service need through to first of type implementation using open standards adopted by suppliers members”.

At the launch of INTEROPen last year, Indi Singh, head of enterprise architecture at NHS England, said the group sends a signal to health and care organisations that suppliers are serious about opening up their systems.

“It also reflects the move to active collaboration between localities, suppliers and national organisations through the interoperability community and bringing together our collective influence in co-developing standards and approaches needed to meet priority needs,” he added. 

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