Could GDPR be the catalyst to improved interoperability in healthcare?

Interoperability between different healthcare systems has been high up on the NHS’s agenda for years. Yet despite several attempts by national bodies to set standards for suppliers to conform to, much of the industry has continuously responded with uncertainty and remains resistant to sharing valuable healthcare data between systems that ultimately benefit the patient.

The introduction of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018, which will impact the UK despite Brexit, could possibly be the catalyst the NHS has been looking for. The GDPR will essentially change the law governing the management and use of data which, according to the Information Governance Alliance, will result in a greater focus on evidence-based compliance, with specified requirements for transparency, more extensive rights for data subjects and considerably harsher penalties for non-compliance.

Digital Health recently published a Special Report on Interoperability where they spoke to industry leaders, including Silverlink’s Product Manager, Rob Dixon, about their views on whether GDPR could be a catalyst to improved interoperability between healthcare systems.

In the article Rob makes note that the advent of GDPR should cause organisations to think generally about how they provide and receive data, potentially assisting interoperability, as well as how they would deal with more specific provisions, such as the “right to be forgotten”.

“There’s still debate about it – it might be even if the patient makes the request [for erasure], that there’s a clinical safety issue with removing the information [from the patient record]. Central guidance on this at present is still lacking.”

According to Rob, the requirements for GDPR are already beginning to “filter down” through procurement channels and Silverlink is starting to see them in new tenders being published. Though it is still unclear whether GDPR will have a big enough impact to initiate transformation on the interoperability front. “People are starting to think about it [GDPR], and the portability aspect might help with interoperability, but I don’t think GDPR on its own will do it. It will have to be associated with some sort of updated standards or guidance from NHS Governing bodies that our customers need to adhere to and thus we’ll ensure our products support this compliance.”

You can read the full Special Report on Interoperability here.