The integration of healthcare applications with the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is a complex process that requires a multi-tiered assurance process to ensure the protection of patient data.
The healthcare industry is heavily regulated, and the integration of new applications into the NHS system can be a difficult process to navigate. However, despite the challenges, the adoption of digital technologies remains crucial to the government's long-term plan for the future of the NHS.
One of the main challenges in integrating healthcare applications with the NHS is the involvement of multiple parties. The responsibility for the use of digital technology in the NHS is split between various entities, including NHS England, NHS Digital, the Department of Health and Social Care, and others. This can result in confusion and make it difficult for new applications to be approved for integration with the NHS system.
To access the NHS, an application must integrate with the NHS Spine via one of its APIs, and establish a connection through the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN).
The NHS Spine is a central hub that provides access to patient data, and APIs are provided by the NHS to access various data resources. Connectivity to the Spine is usually established through an NHS Smart Card, and the process of obtaining HSCN connectivity and setting up an ODS (unique identification code for organizations that interact with the NHS) can be complex.
Another challenge in the integration process is the need to navigate the minefield of standards and compliance that must be met for a new application to be successfully deployed. This can be a time-consuming and difficult process, but the NHS provides resources online to help developers gain compliance for their third-party applications.
Applications requiring access to patient data via the Personal Demographics Service (PDS) and Service Care Records (SCR) must follow a set of steps, including the creation of a developer account, setting up the application to access the right Spine services, testing, and integration.
The most complex part of the process is obtaining the technical conformance certificate from the NHS assurance team, which requires the completion of the Supplier Conformance Assessment List (SCAL) technical document for both PDS and SCR, and the successful completion of a Penetration Test performed by a third party.
Prescription-based applications must also integrate with the NHS Dictionary of Medicines and Devices (dm+d) database, which is the standard dictionary for licensed medicines in the UK. This database contains information on medicines licensed in the UK and must be integrated into prescription-based applications for them to be approved for use in the NHS system.
To overcome the challenges of integrating healthcare applications with the NHS, it is important to have a deep understanding of the standards and compliance requirements, and to have experience navigating the multi-tiered assurance process.
The adoption of digital technologies remains crucial to the government's vision for the future of the NHS, and the successful integration of new applications into the system can result in significant benefits, including improved efficiency and streamlined healthcare delivery.
Blueberry is a leading software expert on NHS integration with online pharmacies and provides a full range of software development and technical consultancy services for healthcare organizations. With expertise in the NHS Digital's IM1 GPSoC program, Blueberry creates software that interfaces with the principal clinical systems developed by their accredited partners.
The company's solutions are hosted within the NHS N3 network and can integrate with nhs.net e-mail systems, ensuring seamless integration and accessibility. Furthermore, Blueberry's apps work across all devices and are designed to integrate with the NHS Electronic Prescription Service, making it easier for healthcare providers to manage and track patient information.
All of Blueberry's software is designed to integrate with other healthcare data sources, such as PAS, GP address data, and drugs databases, allowing for a more comprehensive and efficient healthcare system.