Why You Need to Start Planning for XDS

In the second part of our guest blog from partner EMC, Jean Van Vuuren of its Information Intelligence Group tells us more about how standards for document sharing can help the NHS as it tries to meet national efficiency and data sharing targets

As we know, a key goal of the health secretary and the current stated direction of travel for the NHS is to be ‘paperless by 2018’. But what people don’t realise is in the average Trust today, a huge amount of information is still being managed in paper format. The historical medical records that go around the hospital and follow the patient are often all in that medium – and that is, obviously, very expensive and cumbersome to manage.

To help, EMC, working with companies like SynApps, provides the ability to digitise that information on our scanning platform – but more importantly, manage it and make it available for both the clinician and the patient at the point of care.

And I think Trusts have finally taken on the concept of putting electronic document management or records management systems in place to manage medical records – which is great news. Here’s the next problem: now I have got important content electronic, how do we make it available beyond my Trust?

I want to suggest that a technology called XDS, for ‘cross document sharing’ is ideally suited to help Trusts start sharing innovation, as well as information – in a secure controlled manner, and on their own terms. XDS is basically a repository where you store your documents, and where you can profile them and mark and store them in industry standard ways. What comes with that is the registry – a mechanism, like a large phonebook if you will, that you make available and say, ‘I’ve got all these patient documents and images from radiology available; I would like to make it available for sharing.’

The point is that as long as another Trust or provider supports XDS it can easily and efficiently communicate with you via XDS – and they can then start sharing the information between multiple organisations. To do this (in very top-level terms), they can use XDS to set up an ‘access registry’ and get publishing information they want to share to other Trusts within a region or even nationally.

I think that is going to be key to the next phase of making patient information available across the NHS. We will see Trusts do this on the Internet, or via a secure mechanism from the Web, easily as it is supporting a standard format XDS. Imagine, for example, that one Trust has an XDS registry published and one of their patients is in another Trust; you can then go and request that patient’s information via XDS and get it shared securely and quickly.

So if you are looking at investing in any system that you hope will take you toward that paperless goal, it is sensible to make sure the system can provide XDS capability. I think you’re going to need it – and I think it’s going to be very useful for you too.