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City University London calls for Open Health Informatics with new research programme

At a time of critical change for the NHS, City's Centre for Health Informatics is proposing a new approach for future generations of clinical information systems.
by Luke Nava

City University London's Centre for Health Informatics (CHI) has launched a research programme and policy challenge paper, to explore how NHS IT services can be improved and made more cost-effective through a new combination of open standards, open source software, open systems interfaces and agile development.

Coming at a time of critical change for the NHS – and against a backdrop of wider interest in the use of open source software for health IT in Europe, the US and developing countries – the overall aim of the Open Health Informatics programme is to aid the development of future generations of clinical information systems, such as electronic health records.

“Whilst none of the elements of Open Health Informatics are new in their own right, there are surprisingly few systems deployed which fully embrace and gain advantage from the combination.”

Professor John Chelsom, leader of the programme, City University London

The key objectives of the policy challenge paper are: to quantify the benefits that Open Health Informatics can provide; to identify the barriers to adoption; and to inform decision makers across the spectrum of professions that are involved in appraising technology for clinical information systems. It can be downloaded in full at www.openhealthinformatics.org.

“The four principles that underpin Open Health Informatics have all been tried and tested, in both clinical settings and in wider business and public sector environments,” continues Chelsom. “Yet, despite this, we continue to see a proliferation of proprietary systems and services in the NHS, which lock-in clinical data, pathways of care and working practices.

“It may take one or two generations of systems before fully open solutions become the norm, but our proposition is that achieving this will lead to more effective solutions, with considerably reduced costs.”

The Open Health Informatics programme will combine work by City University London MSc and PhD students, together with applied research in collaboration with primary and acute care providers. Early results have seen the development of reference platforms and pilot implementations for evaluation.

Education on the theory and practice of Open Health Informatics will be provided through CHI's existing MSc in Health Informatics and an array of new continued professional development short courses, beginning in spring 2011.

"CHI was one of the first academic centres for health informatics to be established in the UK. We are delighted to be taking the lead in pushing forward applied research on the practice and adoption of Open Health Informatics, building on the reputation we have established over three decades of research."

Dr Peter Weller, Head of the Centre for Health Informatics, City University London

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.