NHS, U.S. launch exchange program for health IT

The U.K. National Health Service (NHS) is joining forces with the U.S. Veterans Health Administration (VHA) on an exchange program designed to share ideas and best practices for digital health.

Starting this year, both organizations will share ideas about the use of healthcare IT and exchange senior executives and staff from clinical, managerial, and informatics communities. The three-year program will focus on clinical engagement, leadership, and transformational system changes needed to support individuals with chronic medical conditions using clinical health IT.

The initiative was announced earlier this month in conjunction with the publishing of a commissioned report prepared by British consulting firm 2020health that was released at the NHS Expo. The 90-page report, entitled "Making connections: a transatlantic exchange to support the adoption of digital health between the U.S. VHA and England's NHS," describes the goals and provides a framework for the program.

The report addresses the wider scope of telehealth and the digital health program adopted by the VHA, including home telehealth, mobile health, clinical video teleconferencing, secure electronic messaging, and the adoption of both electronic health records (EHR) and personal health records (PHR). For the NHS to achieve its goal of a digital health-enabled service, it will need senior leadership commitment; to find ways to ensure that digital health becomes a default delivery channel for service; to embed the core competencies for digital health into the curricula of doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals and relevant local authority staff; and to set up secure messaging and electronic PHR, according to the report.

For its part, the VHA will likely learn from the report's discussion of how digital health technology is used in the NHS, particularly its use of mobile health, according to the report. The agency said it has incorporated patient feedback and choice into online and mobile directories of services, such as what's available nearby and the use of social media tools.

The scope of the report does not include discussions about the IT that is used. The aim of the report is to define lessons learned about digital health implementation, based on best practice and case studies, according to co-author and consultant director John Cruickshank and colleagues. The goal is to capture key lessons for transferable learning, according to the authors.

They also want to the report to increase awareness of the benefits of telehealth among clinicians and managers responsible for adopting digital health; define the challenges and offer advice to overcome the challenges of digital health relating to technical, organizational, and evaluation matters; define practical support for implementation; and increase engagement and leadership at a local level, according to the authors.

The report was sponsored by an unrestricted educational grant from 3 Million Lives, the VHA, and Bosch.

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