XDS: A Key NHS IT Term You Need To Know For 2014

Last year we spoke a lot about the power our NHS customers had started to get from sharing patient information safely but electronically using Vendor Neutral Archives, or VNAs (e.g. ‘Why Does VNA Matter – And How Do You Identify It?’). The idea is to extend proven electronic content formats from the PACS and large radiography image sharing field toward a possible new basis for the kind of grass roots Electronic Health Record the Health Secretary would like to see a lot more of – as would we all, of course.

As the new year gets properly underway, many NHS managers will already have started taking these powerful ideas forward.

Indeed, we are really excited by the conversations that we see starting to happen here. Many are subject to confidentiality, as I am sure you understand, so I will have to discuss in general terms. But believe me, this is a real debate I’m reporting on – and one which the participants are convinced will deliver real results soon.

Some context first. What we’re seeing in the market is that VNA is becoming a relatively well-understood topic to most Trusts. At the same time, we think NHS managers are also starting to realise that a PACS vendor ‘owning’ their VNA option is not really a solution either: what many are starting to realise is that what they’re after is a content management solution which includes VNA.

This is the conversation we’re seeing in a number of Trusts we’re talking to. It’s a conversation driven by IT realising that if they can put a piece of technology in place that will address both their DICOM challenges/needs and also their non-DICOM data, the clinical notes and documentation they need to worry about, they will have killed two birds with one stone. This is leading many to go to market and look at ways to do VNA and EDM in the same platform.

What’s helping drive this is proven pioneer success, like our ground-breaking engagement with Liverpool plus, Trusts understand the rationale, the basic principles make sense – it’s the practicalities of harnessing the power of VNA that is the discussion now.

But what’s genuinely excited to see is that the debate here is also taking in what I only talked about briefly in 2013: XDS, Cross Document Sharing. You may be aware that we have done some great work with our partner firm Sectra at Kingston Hospital .

Briefly, we are repatriating huge amounts, 19TB in fact, of DICOM data from the Trust’s long-term archive into our Vendor Neural Archive which will be integrated with Sectra. And part of the reason Kingston is doing this is because it is pursuing this long-term vision of VNA and electronic data and content management all living in one unified repository.

Our primary ECM partner EMC has also sold a similar solution to a neighbouring NHS institution, St George’s NHS Trust. As a result, a number of other institutions in South West of London are contacting us – SynApps, Sectra and EMC – to see what we can do to build on this, for their region.

All I can really safely say at this stage about what seems to be emerging from these neighbourly chats is a completely new and effective way of doing NHS information sharing, based on XDS.

There’s some work to do here in addressing technical challenges to do authentication and patient consent – and how you can build on security functionality to help protect patient confidentiality in a way that also makes information available to clinicians.

I think these are problems that will be solved. I also think XDS is going to be a term you will hear more and more about in the course of 2014 – which I think can only be a good thing for anyone who wants to see true Electronic Health Records take off in the UK.