Interop UK

The Big Opportunity for UK Healthcare

In many ways, the UK is uniquely positioned to leapfrog past the US in terms of interoperability. The landscape of healthcare in the UK has a few key differences that make their push into digital and value-based healthcare more manageable. Because of the UK’s smaller population (comparative to the US) the complexities of scale will be more readily dealt with. Additionally, the structure of healthcare in the UK will make it much easier for the NHS to move interoperability forward. Having a centralized organization that can handle the entire decision-making process for the nation means less churn in trying to execute on plans to go-forward.

Additionally, nearly all of the UK's GP sites are already moving off of paper into digital. And while much of the acute space in the UK is still working on coming online, having their GPs on EMRs already will go a long way toward helping them tackle the interoperability challenge.

That said, there are also many obstacles that will make bringing the UK into digital healthcare difficult. Many of these are not unique to the UK, but they represent big issues nonetheless. For starters, having a bulk of acute facilities still on paper records means that the complexities for interoperability are now coupled with the complexities of implementation across the country.

I’ve also come to the realization that when the word “complexities” is used, the implication is that it’s going to be costly. Finding funding for this move will also be a roadblock in the NHS’ way. That’s not to say this won’t be deemed important enough to fund, but rather that it the costs will be significant.

In the USA, we’ve been learning some hard lessons in the quest to make our healthcare data interoperable, perhaps one of the biggest is the issue of governance. If the data is passing freely between hospitals, IDNs, clinics and so on, who owns the data? It becomes a difficult discussion, and one that I would hope our friends in the UK listen in on, in order to learn from our mistakes. The other governance issue of course is protecting patient privacy – who gets to see this data, and as we make data easier to share, are we also making it easier to steal?

From my perspective, the UK has 3 major needs, that will help capitalize on their opportunity and overcome the roadblocks in their way: First, they need the government to take initiative and own the organization of this shift in care. Second, providers in the UK will need to become invested in the process, and realize the benefits. Going digital and becoming interoperable will require shifts in workflow and regulations, and provider adoption will largely determine the success of those efforts. Third, healthcare providers in the UK need to suppliers that will partner with them, rather than just sell to them. Vendors will bear the burden of execution on many of the initiatives in moving forward digital healthcare in the UK. This means that partnering, which has already begun to come to the forefront in US healthcare IT, will be paramount in the UK landscape as well.

Ultimately, KLAS hopes to provide an external perspective that will help move the market in the right direction.