NHSX will not develop new standards, says senior tech advisor

Open standards, open data and open source are the way forward for NHS interoperability. 
By Tammy Lovell
09:34 AM

If you were wondering how NHSX will be developing new standards to speed up innovation, its senior technology advisor, Terence Eden, has a very blunt answer for you. They won’t.

“Developing standards takes a huge amount of time, effort and money and those are three things which we don’t have,” he told delegates at the Healthcare Excellence Through Technology (HETT) event in London today.

Instead, NHSX will look for the best international open standards which are already in use.

“We want to be able to buy software from around the world and we want our software to integrate with other health systems. We can’t take a parochial attitude to data and integration anymore,” Eden said.  

And as for developers who approach NHSX with closed standard solutions, Eden has an even blunter response: “They will get a firm but polite refusal and it might not be that polite.” 

The NHS does not want to be beholden to repeatedly buying from the same suppliers, he explained.

“We want to open up the marketplace for services, for software, for hardware and make sure that these things work everywhere,” he said.   

Enabling AI

Ensuring that aggregate level data conforms to open standards will also help enable the Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions, which many see as the future of healthcare.

“AI is hopefully want is going to help us cure cancer, it’s going to help us work out what resources we need, whether we need them, where they’re going to go to, which populations are likely to get certain diseases and which drugs are going to work,” Eden said.

He also emphasised the importance of open source, which is “faster, cheaper, more secure and morally right”, according to Eden.  

“If one hospital is developing a system, they must make it open source. They must develop it in the open, so that other parts of the health and social care economy can use it,” he said.

In a bid to make medical apps more secure, NHXS has released the NHS app’s open source biometric code for android and iOS.

 “When you can publish security codes like this in the open and encourage people to use it, it increases the security of the ecosystem,” Eden said.

For those concerned about the security of open source, Eden pointed out that the WannaCry ransomware attack of 2017, ransacked the NHS via closed source networks.

“The National Cyber Security Centre’s assessment is that open source does not present any additional security risks to closed source,” he added.

He recommends the NHS follow organisations such as the Ministry of Justice, Government Communication Headquarters, and the National Crime Agency, which use and publish open source code.

“As long as we take on the best practices of these organisations, there is no additional security risk,” Eden said.

The Healthcare Excellence Through Technology (HETT) event  took place at the ExCeL centre in London on 1-2 October, with HIMSS as the official knowledge partner.

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.