There is a renewed vigor in healthcare IT. Lots of great projects curated by enthusiastic people, encouraging new thinking around the definition, development design and delivery of technology for healthcare. Here I’m thinking about DigiHealthCon, HANDI, NHS Hack Day and the eHealthOpenSource competition and Pipe and Hat Club. I’m involved in three organisations: eHealth OpenSource as Secretary, HANDI as a co-founder and NHS Hack Day as a participant and advocate. When I’m not doing things relating to those three, I’m a Director of Tactix4 Limited, an opensource healthcare IT company. I thought I’d share some of my thinking about these projects and how I see them fitting together.

eHealthOpenSource is a long standing grouping of industry, healthcare orgs and academics born out of CfH. It’s going through a reboot right now as a supplier / advocacy / support organisation. It’s mission statement is:

To support open source deployment in the NHS and UK healthcare by:

  1. monitoring and promoting the use of open source software
  2. nominating appropriate open source suppliers for ICT tenders
  3. developing and encouraging best practice in open source software acquisition

eHealthOpenSource will support and further the adoption of CAOS (Complete Adoption of Open Source) healthcare. It is a stimulant on the supply-side by supporting and networking open source projects, companies and consultants.

HANDI is a new Community Interest Company, a not-for-profit organisation, formed to further the ‘app paradigm’ in healthcare IT. The ‘app paradigm’ is the antithesis of Big Bang, Rip and Replace, One System To Rule Them All. HANDI is a stimulant on the demand side. By facilitating networking between healthcare organisations at events where messages of agile and openness are strongly advocated by experienced practitioners, HANDI encourages a wide variety of people and organisations to challenge and change both technology and procurement practices towards better healthcare IT. HANDI also lobbies government, quangos and trade bodies in support new entrants into healthcare IT by advocating the HANDI vision of stacks, platforms and openness. Through openness and through stacks and platforms, the much discussed ‘healthcare apps’ to connect-all, in terms of patients, records, services, can flourish.

NHS HackDay has a number of aims. These are:

  1. To have fun, this is an opportunity for bright doctors, developers, and designers to meet and learn from people in other disciplines they wouldn’t normally meet
  2. To make software that promotes health, this is the challenge and there are prizes, we’ll have to wait and see what this is
  3. To showcase the benefits of open source software, open governance, open data, challenges, and the talent in the SME software development community

NHSHackDay highlights the art of the possible. I am immensely impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment Carl et al have for radical alternatives to traditional healthcare IT. For me, NHS HackDay sits somewhere between supply and demand. On the one hand, NHS HackDay makes stuff by bringing together developers and clinicians to hack solutions to areas of market failure in healthcare IT. By crowdsourcing problems and peer producing code to address them, NHS Hack Day has shown the art of the possible. On the other hand, NHS Hack Day also stimulates demand. By encouraging the open discussion of healthcare IT failures and sign posting solutions from the open source world, or those hacked at the events, healthcare professionals and managers can demand better IT from Shared Service organisations, internal IT or systems vendors.

I want to see each of these three organisations continue to flourish and grow. I see that each has a distinct raison d’etre and different modus operandi. To my mind, wherever possible these three organisations need to support each other as the commonalities in the vision for healthcare IT are great. I don’t see any competition, only complementary and extremely beneficial overlap.

I know that Carl Reynolds, Ewan Davis, and Malcolm Newbury (of IHE and eHos) are each advocating new paradigms to the various organisations that have the ability to influence healthcare IT procurement from the top. By meeting with DH, the Cabinet Office, Intellect, BCS Health and others, NHS Hack Day, HANDI and eHos are giving voice and advocating the messages of openness and agile for the NHS. Through openness and agile NHS IT can realise better value, greater user (clinician, patient, administration) satisfaction, longevity of service.