In 2010, the government announced proposals to bring about an information revolution in the NHS, giving patients access to their own health records, and making information on the performance of the NHS available electronically. The government believes that by providing better information about the NHS, healthcare standards will improve, and also allowing people to have access and control of their health records enables to take greater ownership of their own care and share decisions about their own health with clinicians. So Sheridan, I'd like to discuss with you some of the themes that you see need to be worked through to turn the vision that the government has set out into reality.
Sheridan: I think there are several key themes. For example, one is around actually how you collect data. What type of data do you collect? How is it controlled, how is it presented and interpreted? At the moment, most information is collected to inform managers, but going forward, we're going to need more clinical data to inform clinical decision making, and as part of that, I think one of the things we'll need to do is look at how information sort of enables commissioners to make better decisions, more strategic decisions. They are going to need greater insight into the needs of their local population, so that they can actually design services around the local population, rather than just looking at management information on past trends and past contracts. So I think those are two of the main themes that I see emerging.
Right, and I also think there's a role to play for providers in the market, and suppliers in the market, but I feel they have to stimulate the market and provide some additional innovation that would stimulate new ways of sharing information and accessing information. So do you have any thoughts about that, Sheridan?
Sheridan: I think there are some really good examples of where people are doing those types of things and commercialising data. I think a key one is from University Hospitals Birmingham, where they've developed an in-house tool called Healthcare Evaluation Data. That tool is an informatics tool that provides quality and performance benchmarking, and they've used that tool internally, very successful, to make major improvements on quality, and they look at benchmarking themselves against other providers nationally to make sure that their performance, they keep improving their performance continually. And I think that could be a key trend we see going forward, where more actual NHS organisations develop their own in-house tools and then commercialise them out to the market and actually sell them to other providers.
That's really good to hear, Sheridan, that people are already taking forward some of these initiatives around stimulating the market. Are there any additional recommendations you'd give, in terms of moving the vision forward?
Sheridan: I think there are. I think there are some key areas where actions will need to be taken at that sort of local and national level. For example, strategy and leadership are going to be very important going forward. I think a good area locally for people to make a difference is to actually appoint a chief clinical information officer to the board. This would actually then give clinicians that representation about the sort of information they are going to need to make better strategic decisions going forward about services. But that person could also represent patients, and be a link into enabling more information to be delivered to patients. I think another key area is around organisation and culture. So there are some cultural barriers present in the system at the moment, around sharing data and around joined up working. As we said earlier, one of the key themes going forward is around integrating social care and health, and we'll need to break down some of those cultural barriers to do that through integrating the data, and integrating teams more across.
Thank you, Sheridan, for those insights. As you see, the information revolution marks a turning point in health and social care service delivery. The shift of control to patients has been propelled by the increase in accessible information. Patient choice will now drive developments in healthcare, and the industry now faces a huge challenge in meeting the public's demand for information. There is a lot that needs to be done to be able to turn the government's vision into a reality.