Tags: Open Source

SynApps Signs Up To Health and Social Care Interoperability Charter To Ensure A Better NHS

Content management leader commits to ensuring health information systems become key enablers of fully integrated patient care

Maidenhead, UK, 5 January 2016 – Content management leader SynApps Solutions has signed up to techUK’s Health and Social Care Interoperability Charter in order to demonstrate its firm belief that integrated health and social care information systems are a key driver of better patient care.

As a signatory to the Charter, a voluntary commitment of key health IT vendors being organised by the trade group and representing the voice of the UK tech supplier community, SynApps commits to helping make its health IT systems more open and easier to integrate.

If enough leading vendors do that for the NHS, it will enable the free-flow of patient information across the care continuum, say Charter advocates.

That’s what SynApps, which has been helping NHS Trusts do just that with its standards-based clinical content systems, wants to see: in the last year alone, four major English NHS Trusts have committed to work with SynApps’s VNA (Vendor Neutral Archive) standards-based content management system, for example.

The move aligns with a long track record of openness from the company, which has been promoting open data and open APIs since its inception in the late 1990s. SynApps’ management team recognises the need to de-risk IT projects by accessing the power and scope of a wider, supportive Open Source community and using open standards that avoid vendor lock in, a particular concern for NHS organisations transitioning out of complex NPfIT contracts.

“We have witnessed huge demand for the standards-based VNA and Open Source solutions so we know that the best way to get to the fully digital NHS is by interoperable systems,” confirmed Mark Winstone, SynApps’ joint CEO.

“We strongly believe in the opening up of the NHS to the power of Open Source and open standards-based content management, as well as vendor neutrality, so critical to helping the NHS and achieving fully joined up health and social care,” he added.

To find out more about the principles in the Charter please visit techUK’s website here

About SynApps
SynApps is an independent services and solutions company specialising in Enterprise Content Management (ECM) technologies. Founded in 2003 by former Documentum services professionals, the company provides consultancy, implementation and support services for Alfresco and EMC Documentum, and has authored a suite of content integration solutions, ConXApps, that allow businesses to quickly maximise their investment in ECM technologies. Organisations across healthcare, government and commercial markets rely on SynApps solutions and services to capture and share knowledge more dynamically and efficiently.

Find out more here, or follow the firm on Twitter

SynApps Supports The Renewed Commitment To A Paperless NHS

medical-781422_1280We’ve been hearing about a paperless NHS for some time – after all, the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, first issued his challenge for the health service to be fully digital in 2013.

You would be forgiven for being a bit sceptical about how realistic that plan was, given that under this and the last government any top-down National Programme for IT level endeavour was simply never going to get the funding.

Well, there’s less and less basis for such a view, given the strength of the renewal of the paperless challenge this month.

At an important conference in Manchester on innovation in the NHS, the Secretary re-iterated his challenge – stating that he wants at least 15% of all NHS patients routinely accessing NHS advice, services and medical records through apps by the end of the next financial year.

Hunt’s team says it wants all patients able to access their own GP electronic record online in full, seeing not just a summary of their allergies and medication but blood test results, appointments and medical histories – by 2016.

By 2018, this record will include information from all their health and care interactions. Meanwhile, at the same event, NHS England also weighed in, with Tim Kelsey, National Director for Patients and Information, warning that the average Trust spends between £500,000 and £1m per year managing its internal paper mountain.

“Health and social care services in England must end the unnecessary reliance on paper in the treatment of patients,” notes Kelsey, adding digital is the “key” to making services “safer, more effective and more efficient”: “Every day, care is held up and patients are kept waiting while an army of people transport and store huge quantities of paper round our healthcare system”.

“This approach is past its sell by date… We need to consign to the dustbin of history the industry in referral letters, the outdated use of fax machines and the trolleys groaning with patients’ notes” (see more here).

VNA is leading the charge to a paperless NHS

Here at SynApps Solutions, we couldn’t be more delighted that leaders like Hunt and Kelsey have called for a redoubling of efforts on the paperless target, plus the practical help Kelsey’s team is putting in, with a series of guides due this Autumn to help Trusts get on the digital road.

We’re delighted, as we have seen the benefits of Trusts going digital already – in the shape of our growing roster of leading-edge Trust VNA (Vendor Neutral Archive) projects.

NHS organisations that have made the move include Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, London’s Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, Northampton General Hospital and the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

These customers have used VNA as the basis for managing not just complex DICOM radiology data but more and more of their clinical/patient data, too.

They see the VNA approach as a portal to just the kind of full, digital electronic patient record that the National Programme promised but ultimately couldn’t deliver – such as Northampton’s Deputy Director of ICT, Christina Malcolmson, has said, “Our new SynApps on-site VNA has a zero-footprint viewer, which means clinicians (and ultimately patients) can look at images on any device, including tablets.

“At the moment, that’s just PACS images – but we will grow it and include other images and documents, so we can have a full EPR over time,” she adds.

You can’t hold progress back

Hunt’s call for open access to patient records has to be based on this kind of standards-based technology.

That’s probably why Trusts are also looking to exploit the power of Open Source – which in many instances is proving to bridge the gap to great new solutions that the lack of central big funding presents.

The conclusion seems inescapable. Paperless is coming – you have to deliver on this promise.

And VNA, open standards and open source seems genuinely the on-ramp to meet what was a 2018 target – but which now seems to be a 2016 one!

We’d love to help you get there – come and talk to the SynApps health team to find out more.

Tony Backhouse
Head of SynApps Solutions’ Health Practice

Can Open Source Remove Vendor Lock-In?

Integrated Care Today reports on how Open Source can be a huge help for the government looking to better integrate health and social care.

Technology is crucial to the salvation of the NHS – a fact acknowledged at the top of NHS England and most recently in its 2014-15 Annual Report, where data and technology was said to have the power to “improve choice and outcomes for patients, allow them to take more control, reduce the burden on front-line staff, increase accountability and support the NHS as an engine of science and economic growth”.

It’s regrettable then that we are still reading about NHS technology issues – such as the ill-starred General Practice Extraction Service, whose cost rose from £14m to over £40m and which has only one customer, NHS England.

Read the full article authored by SynApps’ Tony Backhouse published here in Integrated Care Today

Will Open Source Prove Crucial In The Move To Five Year Forward View?

Ben_Goldacre_TAM_London_2009_(2)Technology is acknowledged as being crucial to the salvation of the NHS – a fact acknowledged by NHS England’s leadership, most recently in its 2014-15 Annual Report, where it is stated that better use of data and technology has the power to “improve choice and outcomes for patients, allow them to take more control, reduce the burden on front-line staff, increase accountability and support the NHS as an engine of science and economic growth”.

It’s regrettable, then, that we are still hitting NHS technology roadblocks. I refer to the General Practice Extraction Service (GPES), whose cost rose from £14m to over £40m with only NHS England so far able to use it.

However, it’s less useful to criticise this particular project than it is to look for new ways of doing Health IT better.

An important clue in the discussion of GPES was there. Listen to well-known, medical sector commentator Ben Goldacre, who posted this statement on the GPES row: “[This is why] we need open APIs, open data, open source, shared mapping ontologies &c to permit innovation AND inter-operability”.

Why are people like Goldacre talking about open data and open APIs? A growing number of NHS Health IT experts – including NHS England itself, as well as commentators like Goldacre – see incredible potential in de-risking IT projects by accessing the power and scope of a wider, supportive Open Source community.

‘All kind of vendor tricks’

Those are important stakeholders to get behind Open Source. Much more important ones are actual practitioners – front-line NHS IT leaders who are using Open Source. We have worked with many, as our Clinical Content Store has an Open Source option.

Take just one example – an Integrated Care Trust in the North of England whose CIO told an audience of NHS health leaders and other HIT (Health IT) stakeholders recently why she was so attracted to the idea: “The entire marketplace that comes through our door is the commercialised EPRs – the big American vendors, trying to get our time and trying to sell us the big Americanised products. They do have a lot of ‘pulling power’ and work very hard to get you to buy their products,” she says.

The problem is, the situation is much more complicated at the coalface – and she needs more flexibility and a wider range of options to deal with the reality she sees than is on offer, basically. “We have got about 300 systems in my organisation alone, because it is made up of several previous Trusts and organisations put together, so I have a whole set of systems to deal with,” she says. “And you see all kinds of tricks from vendors who don’t work in Open Systems who try to make sure you can’t get to the data. We all need in the NHS to abstract data from applications so that we don’t have that situation any more.”

She contrasts this situation with the Open Source alternative, as she sees it: “I can put my clinicians into a product community; we can help steer it – indeed, it is really up to us to make it go somewhere – It is slightly lazy always selecting a safe vendor (but knowing you’re paying over the odds for that ‘safety’) as opposed to contributing to a community where you are steering the product. I also think there are many advantages in the longer term in this kind of shared product development.”

But perhaps the single statement that shows why people from Goldacre to NHS CCIOs are right is summed up by her last remark to the audience about all this: “I just can’t tolerate vendor lock-in any more.”

Is it time to look at Open Source as a way to avoid many of the problems of older style technology delivery? I think it is. Of course, it’s not a silver bullet and won’t solve all your problems overnight – this is real life, after all.

But to get to the kind of NHS Simon Stevens envisages, I suspect Open Source is going to play a much bigger part than any of us can imagine right now. What do you think?

Tony Backhouse

Head, SynApps Healthcare Practice UK Team

September Healthcare Events. Open Source: The Key to Sharing Patient Information Across the NHS

We look forward to welcoming you and your colleagues to our latest Healthcare events.

Join us, NHS England, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, Alfresco and Fortrus at the Museum of Science and Industry Manchester on Tuesday 8th of September.  A few places still remain.  Register today

Open Source Manchester








Join us, NHS England, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Alfresco and Fortrus at the Kings Fund London on September 24th.  Register today

Open Source-London

SynApps Applauds New IT Trade Body’s Demands For Better Information Governance In The UK Public Sector

Tony Backhouse 27f8d29By Tony Backhouse, Head of Healthcare Practice, SynApps Solutions

As we all settle down to the next five years of our new government, now is the time to start a debate about the best way to help deliver the most effective public services.

Technology is often pushed to the top of the queue when it comes to transforming public services, as we all know. Critics tend to respond that technology is often used an alternative to increased investment.

They may well have a point, and after five years of austerity, many public sector leaders wonder if there’s any ‘fat’ left to cut before we get to real flesh and bone. But in the NHS, there is a clear response, in the form of the seminal ‘Five Year Forward View’, to this question: we need more money and we need creative, intelligent use of digital solutions, too.

Here at SynApps, we know from our work on Vendor Neutral Archiving and Open Source clinical content solutions that stakeholders are increasingly convinced that smart technology is an invaluable tool in their hands.

A new call we can all get behind

However, one big barrier remains. It’s not a functionality problem. We have great technology already.

What we are missing is a common, easy way for those technologies – at all levels, between all sorts of partner organisations and teams in health, social and community care – to work together.

What’s holding us back: silos. silos of information, the way we have sectioned up data and patient information resources in ways that make it impossible to connect up the way we want.

That’s why we are throwing our support behind the call by the new pressure group of vendors behind networking technologies in the public sector, Innopsis for more effective, safer information sharing across the public sector.

The body, which launched last week after a re-branding from its previous identity as PSNGB, says that what the heads of major Departments like Health and DWP should be doing is taking on board the potential to transform public services by better enabling organisations to safely share more information – something it sees as a “huge, largely untapped opportunity” for UK Plc.

The evidence is mounting up at the coalface

Who can disagree with its further point that if public sector organisations could safely share information, for example across multi-agency safeguarding hubs, which could form a single point of contact to report safeguarding concerns, we can make real progress here.

Progress and savings, too. This is not just Innopsis’ conviction but that of many experienced leaders in both the buyer and commercial community around the NHS. And it’s ours based on the real savings we can see our Trust customers achieving every day.

Let’s hope Whitehall listens to Innopsis, our customers and the larger community at this formative time – as the next five years could be a lot more successful and productive as a result.

The NHS Is Getting Interested In Open Source: And That’s A Good Thing

By Jean van Vuuren, Head of Healthcare UK & Ireland, Alfresco Software

We’re delighted to hear this week from an important partner of ours, Alfresco, which has been doing some very interesting work with the NHS around Open Source – work that’s now evolving into some great VNA developments.

I am delighted to be able to talk to the SynApps community. We see SynApps as one of our most significant implementation partners, so this is a great way to acknowledge that, but also to discuss how we’re making great progress together in a very important market.

That market is the NHS, and together we’ve just built the first UK Open Source VNA (Vendor Neutral Archive) medical data system – based on Alfresco’s award-winning technology together with some functionality from J4Care, and brought to market via SynApps’ integration and professional skills and resources. (Please go here http://www.synapps-solutions.com/products/vna to find out more.)

Why is this a significant development? I can answer the question in three ways: 1, the Open Source angle, 2, the NHS market view and 3, the VNA aspect.

The Open Source angle first. Here I think it’s worth spending a few moments clearing up some mistaken assumptions about Open Source.

First off, Open Source is not free. That isn’t its value or the source of its attraction. Alfresco is an Open Source company that sells to the enterprise. Like all enterprise-facing Open Source vendors, we don’t offer non-cost products, but instead, we offer a free community version of our solution, plus a paid-for, commercially supported and scalable one. What makes it ‘Open Source’ is that with both you have access to the code – and you can see exactly how things get done. Most users of Open Source clinical lead production systems will select a commercially supported release as it is fully supported and fully tested by the vendor. This reduces any clinical risk of running an unsupported and untested platform. At the same time, ‘Open’ really does mean that – Alfresco is all about open standards so as to encourage the most interoperability and sharing of functionality we can. It’s an approach that NHS organisations have already picked up on, even before this VNA work, like a project at Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust. So the first reason I think, that this VNA work we’re doing together is important, is it shows the power of Open Source as an approach in itself.

The days of NHS IT ‘vendor lock-in’ are over

Which brings me to the second point – the NHS and Open Source. The NHS, as it moves on from the National Programme for IT, is becoming more interested in Open Source as a resource. In fact, we’ve been in close contact with the internal team at NHS England that is working with Trust CCIOS (Chief Clinical Information Officers, the heads of IT for many health institutions) (see here to encourage local autonomy and more innovative approaches to sourcing IT, now the days of big contracts are drawing to a close. NHS England is trying to encourage local purchasing and IT decision-making, and it is convinced that Open Source is of great importance in that regard. A key driver is openness and choice – the NHS doesn’t want to have to deal with any kind of vendor lock-in. Open means that NHS developers can adapt code and play with systems in a way that suits them, not the vendor, in other words, which is also seen as a big bonus by NHS England leadership. So, the second reason I think it’s important that Alfresco and SynApps are coming together with a medical solution that is Open Source is that it’s at a time when the NHS is really starting to be open to the possibilities that entails.

And the third reason we are interested in this partnership between ourselves, SynApps and J4Care are the same reasons SynApps has been promoting a VNA and Document Management approach; there is just so much that NHS Trusts can do with this form of data management! VNAs are swiftly emerging as the best way for organisations to not just store and easily access (in a safe and secure manner) important patient images, but also all the associated clinical information that clinicians want to see online – that single electronic patient record ideal that never really came out of the National Programme, but which we all see as key to the ‘paperless NHS’ model the Secretary of State said he wants in place by 2018.

Three powerful reasons, I hope you agree, on why this first NHS Open Source VNA is worthy of your attention. We’re really excited about this, and hope you are too.

SynApps, Alfresco and J4Care will be revealing more about their new Open Source VNA solution at launch event for the Open Source VNA solution on March 26 (1.30 – 4.30 pm) at the Park Plaza Hotel, Leeds, LS1 5NS.