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Health IT Infrastructure Investment Key to NHS Long-Term Plan

UK National Health Services (NHS) plans to invest a substantial amount of money in upgrading its health IT infrastructure to make digital health services a mainstream part of NHS in the next five years.

health IT infrastructure

Source: Thinkstock

By Fred Donovan

- UK National Health Service (NHS) plans to invest a substantial amount of money in upgrading its health IT infrastructure to make digital health services a mainstream part of the NHS in the next five years, according to its long-term plan.

The plan said that all NHS healthcare providers will be expected to have a core level of digitization by 2024.

“This will cover clinical and operational processes across all settings, locations and departments and be based on robust, modern IT infrastructure services for hosting, storage, networks and cyber security,” the plan stated.

The 10-year plan also includes measures to improve out-of-hospital care, supporting primary medical and community health services; improve maternity safety including halving the number of stillbirths, maternal and neonatal deaths, and serious brain injury by 2025; and support the elderly through more personalized care and stronger community and primary care services.

As part of this effort, NHS will accelerate the rollout of electronic patient record systems and apps, including software-as-a-service and other cloud-based variants.

Digitally enabled health services will be implemented according to national standards to ensure integration with the local health and care record (LHCR) program, which is integrating healthcare records across general practices, hospitals, community services, and social care.

As part of the move to digital health, from 2020 NHS organizations will not longer use fax machines to communicate with other organizations or patients.

“The NHS long-term plan, backed by a historic commitment of an extra £20.5 billion ($26 billion) a year from taxpayers, marks an important moment not just for the health service but for the lives of millions of patients and hardworking NHS staff across the country,” said UK Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock.

In addition, the NHS long-term plan calls for establishment of diagnostic imaging networks that will enable the rapid transfer of clinical images from care settings to specialists by 2023.

“This open standards-based infrastructure will enable both the rapid adoption of new assistive technologies to support improved and timely image reporting, as well as the development of large clinical data banks to fuel research and innovation,” the plan related.

NHS digital technology milestones

The plan laid out the following milestones for the NHS digitally enabled health program:

  • In 2019, NHS will introduce controls to ensure new systems purchased by the health system comply with agreed standards.
  • By 2020, five regions will deliver a longitudinal health and care record platform linking NHS and local authorities; three additional areas will follow in 2021.
  • In 2020/21, people will have access to their care plan and communications from their care professionals using the NHS app.
  • By summer 2021, NHS expects to have 100 percent compliance with mandated cybersecurity standards across all organizations in the national health and care system.
  • In 2021/22, NHS will have systems that support population health management in every integrated care system across England, with a chief clinical information officer or chief information officer on the board of each local NHS organisation.
  • By 2022/23, the child protection information system will be extended to cover all types of healthcare organizations, including general practices.
  • By 2023/24 every patient in England will be able to access a digital first primary care offer.
  • By 2024, secondary care providers in England, including acute, community, and mental health care settings, will be fully digital. Data will be captured, stored, and transmitted electronically, supported by strong IT infrastructure and robust cybersecurity, and LHCRs will cover the entire UK.

“Whether it’s treating ever more people in their communities, using the latest technology to tackle preventable diseases, or giving every baby the very best start in life, this government has given the NHS the multi-billion-pound investment needed to nurture and safeguard our nation’s health service for generations to come,” Hancock concluded.

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