Much has been written about the impact that open source approaches to information and technology are having across the whole of society. A new chapter, some of which is still being written, is emerging and challenging the way that individuals, communities, organisations and governments interact with each other.
Open data is enabling us to see the world in new ways as untapped patterns and systems emerge and these can be extremely powerful. In healthcare, the recent creation of Open Prescribing by Ben Goldacre and Anna Powell-Smith at the EBM Data Lab is a superb example of how using open data, anonymised GP prescribing data routinely published by NHS England, can be used to create a tool which could have a huge impact on prescribing patterns and spend.
Primary care prescribing spend totaled over £8 billion in 2013/2014. Open Prescribing cost £50,000 to develop and yet, just a quick look round the site uncovers the huge potential for efficiency savings and better decision making. The telling thing is that this data has been published for years, but it just took an innovative vision to collating, rendering and presenting the information to provide a real insight into prescribing decisions across England (this makes it sound easy but it was clearly somewhat more complex). Those behind Open Prescribing are hoping that the site will be used not only by commissioners and providers but also by individual patients, wishing to understand their own practice prescribing patterns in comparison with others. Open data is enabling a change of the prescribing dynamic.
Here at the Ripple Programme we too want to change the dynamic of health and social care through the adoption of open source principles and methodologies. These are allowing us to develop a range of templates, standards, APIs and user interfaces which are deliberately adaptable for use across any health and social care ecosystem. And open source means that, unlike closed vendor dependent systems, there are no licence cost implications, no vendor tie in through lengthy contracts.
Ripple was initially established to support NHS Integration Pioneers in the development of their integrated digital care record programmes and we have deliberately taken a community approach, encouraging other pioneers to contribute to and shape our offers.
Open source is dependent upon sharing, it only flourishes because people are wanting to share their ideas and can see the value that expanding learning and ideas brings and for Ripple this is very important. The programme is reliant on like minded developers, organisations and individuals who are able to see the mutual benefit of disrupting the healthcare IT market. Iteration and improvement of the Ripple offers will not happen without this reciprocity. The aim is for the organisations and localities who adopt the Ripple offer to be able to contribute to a mutually improved product – for their learning gained during implementation to feed straight back into the development so that future adoptees can also benefit.
Therefore, in a similar way to Open Prescribing, we are anticipating that a relatively small outlay to develop and invest in an integrated digital care record will unlock huge efficiency and resource savings across whole communities.
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Opening up Healthcare IT – the right medicine