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Supporting transfer

‘Interoperability is a journey that never ends’

OneLondon Programme Director Joss Palmer reflects on the experiences of large scale information sharing projects in the US and Canada

7 November 2022

What do St George’s Hospital in Tooting or the Churchill Medical Centre in Waltham Forest have in common with US navy submarines deployed in the Pacific Ocean or an Emergency Room in Ontario?

Well, I found out recently when I took part in a virtual panel discussion hosted by HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) bringing together representatives from some of the world’s biggest programmes joining up health and care information.

I was delighted to talk about our work across London to improve health and care in the Capital and the amazing progress we have made establishing the London Care Record which has now been viewed over 20 million times. We are in good company. It was fascinating to hear about two other major, but very different, programmes  from across the Atlantic.

From OneLondon to London, Ontario

Building on collaboration during Covid, the e-VOLVE programme was created to implement Cerner across 10 organisations and 58 sites, creating and sharing a single patient record (Cerner HIE) across a large geographical area and all the places where care is provided.  The Ontario programme covers a geography of over 200 kilometres north to south with a population of around four million people.

They are making great progress, and also grappling with a range of challenges – including Information Governance, security, standardisation of data, how to share the costs across organisations and how to agree priorities at a local and regional level. These all sounded very familiar!

Submarines and air bases

In the United States the Department of Defence, US Coastguard and Veteran Affairs are joining up information to improve health and care for their service personnel, veterans and all their dependents around the world. In total this potentially covers the records of over 28 million people worldwide – who are a very mobile population many of which have some very specific health needs, acute needs and chronic conditions. In total the VA have over 2600 healthcare locations and around 1200 military treatment facilities stateside or overseas.

Their work is focused on a joined-up patient record for active-duty personnel or veterans.  They also have ambitious goals to track and identify health risks much earlier, develop better preventative treatments, research and effectively reduce the risk of factors such as PTSD.  They have a real focus on how to make using the data easy and straightforward for clinical staff

We have so much in common

While very different projects with different geographies and populations I was struck by how much we have in common.

A journey not a destination

‘Interoperability is a journey that never ends’. This comment is very true for all three of the programmes. You do not ‘do it once and then it is done’. Instead, it is an evolution where you continually return to, and re-address, challenges, or extend or improve what you have already built.

Moving at the speed of trust

It is people that make progress happen. Connecting with people to build and maintain relationships is vital to develop shared goals that we need to succeed. This is an evolving process.  We have some great partners across OneLondon with relationships built on mutual respect. That really makes a difference in helping us deliver for Londoners together. 

Remember the ‘why’

It is very easy to get absorbed in the day-to-day challenges such as technical specifications or data protection laws. These are important and can be challenging.

So, it is important to remember why we are here and what we are trying to do. Whether US forces deployed overseas, or communities in London Ontario or London England, it all comes down to ensuring that we are supporting health and care practitioners as best we can – so that they can provide best possible healthcare.

Learning from each other

Listening to the experiences from programmes across the Atlantic showed how they are facing and overcoming many of the same challenges as us.

It made me proud of what we have achieved together as OneLondon and the exciting plans we have to move forward over the coming months and years.  It reminded me that it’s important to share and to celebrate our successes – like hitting 20 million views of the London Care Record!

It is also good to know that we are part of a wider global family. We really have so much in common – strong values of partnership, trust and delivering for our populations as well as being resilient to setbacks! 

If you are interested in hearing more, you can find out more about these projects by watching the HIMSS webinar here.

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