U.S., U.K. collaborate on health IT sharing initiative

With an eye on improving healthcare quality and efficiency, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the U.K.'s National Health Service will share health IT information and tools with one another after signing an agreement Thursday at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and her British counterpart Jeremy Hunt signed the memorandum of understanding, the latter of whom was broadcast via a live feed from the U.K. The agreement focuses on four key areas, according to an HHS announcement, including:

  • Sharing quality indicators: The collaboration now is identifying alignments across existing British and American repositories to identify best practices in the design and use of quality indicators. Future work will include mutually leveraging technical experts and data, and working on a standardized approach to quality indicator development.
  • Liberating data and putting it to work: HHS and NHS will discuss and find areas of collaboration around open data and safe and secure data transparency of secondary stored data, as well as interoperability standards for improvement of data sharing and clinical care with a focus on patients accessing and sharing data.
  • Adopting digital health record systems: Both organizations will work to maximize successful adoption of digital records across the health care spectrum and support the development of a robust health IT workforce.
  • Priming the health IT market: Both organizations will work to support the Health IT Marketplace by identifying barriers to innovation, sharing individual certification approaches for patients and clinician-facing applications, and strategies to support small and medium enterprises/start-ups.

Hunt, after joking with Sebelius that they're the only people in their respective governments of whom no one is envious of their jobs, said that the two nations, while having a lot in common, still could learn a great deal from one another.

"We are two countries that are leading the charge in our passionate belief that tech and transparency can really transform healthcare," Hunt said. "We can learn from what you're doing with [electronic health records] inside hospitals, while we've probably done more with EHRs outside of hospitals."

Last March, a similar collaboration was announced between the U.S. Veterans Health Administration and NHS. The aim of those efforts is to trigger both mainstream digital health efforts in the U.K. and specialized telehealth services in the VHA.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement
- here's the memorandum of understanding (.pdf)

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