Now that Round 2 of the Technology fund is out, it really feels like the last of the National Programme’s “One Size Fits All” approach is being stripped away.
We now have an approach to the mammoth challenge of clinical information handling that meets care providers’ needs, doesn’t force unwieldy amounts of change on them or their care processes, and has a much better chance of adoption. Integration not standalone, evolution not revolution seem to be the overriding themes.
Of course, funding isn’t the only hurdle being addressed in recent times in the movement towards sharing of information:
- Further work on the Caldicott guidelines – their increasing acceptance in the clinical and patient community is an essential part of ensuring that information can flow from the point of view of acceptable sharing (the technology aspect has always been secondary to the acceptability aspect).
- The stampede towards mobility solutions now that good, solid device platforms are readily available at a price-point that can show return on investment – equipping care workers with iPads, removing the need for multiple trips back to base to return or complete notes, having all appropriate information at the point of care was a sizable technology challenge even 5 years ago, but that barrier has now been removed, and so it fits in really well with the aims of the Fund at this point.
- Progress is also becoming more transparent – whilst the Clinical Digital Maturity Index is increasingly well-defined, the challenge will be how to move up at a pace that doesn’t completely disrupt how the organisation can operate and function.
Should this have always been the approach to helping provide better care? Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but my gut feeling is that this has a chance to make a much longer lasting impact – a marathon rather than a sprint.
There has been endless negative press around the NPfIT’s sizeable Change Management aspect. It was simply too disruptive in many cases. But here, all the pieces are already available and most are already in use within the Trusts. Encouraging the joining-up of those pieces through the mandation of the NHS Number, openly-available APIs and standards for the sharing of information, avoiding vendor lock-in and silos of information is a process that may take time, but is much lower risk and more achievable.
In short, the time is right to make a big positive step forward in providing joined-up, high-quality, informed care at the point of need.