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“Better to have practical solutions to big problems than perfect solutions to smaller ones”

Health and Social Care Information Centre chair Kingsley Manning wants to see more work at the ‘achievable end’

[London, UK] Interoperability has for too long been a ‘Holy Grail’ for NHS health informatics – and not the focus of realistic drives to actually deliver it.

That’s the assessment of a long-time veteran of NHS IT reform, Kingsley Manning, Chair of the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), who told health IT delegates in London this week that, ‘Yes, interoperability has to be the basis of what we do – but we need to stop searching for ideal definitions of it.

“As technical people, for example, we work to deliver perfect solutions when we forget that the most interoperable system of all is me – the patient, who is better than a computer at navigating different systems and identifying risk. 

“Patients would benefit more from health IT that helped them solve some problems well than everything done for them; it’s better to have practical solutions to big problems than perfect solutions to smaller ones.”

An example is the emphasis in some NHS technology discussions on subjects such as genomics, when the country could save a lot more money and help a lot more patients just by stopping many elderly people falling and breaking bones, he pointed out.

Manning said that delivering such practical systems can only happen, though, if NHS organisations produce better quality and more timely data, and that the supplier community is properly incentivised to work with the NHS.

Manning was speaking at the first of a series of special one-day conferences taking place across the UK in the next few weeks – the latest in the ‘Health Insights’ roadshows organised by HIMSS UK and NHS England to share best digital practice among health informatics leaders.

The Autumn 2015 series kicked off this week in London, where speakers including Manning – who delivered the opening keynote – as well as Inderjit Singh, NHS England Head of Enterprise Architecture – discussed issues such as interoperability and cyber security awareness.

The events, free to NHS professionals, and which are classed as continuous professional development, continue in Newcastle on 11 November and conclude in Leeds on 8 December.

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