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NHS Digital signs deal that will improve data sharing across different organisations

NHS Digital has signed a deal with DXC Technology and CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, that will make mapping clinical and administrative codes between different health and care organisations, and their contracted technology suppliers, faster and easier thanks to a new terminology server.

NHS Digital has signed a deal with DXC Technology and CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, that will make mapping clinical and administrative codes between different health and care organisations, and their contracted technology suppliers, faster and easier thanks to a new terminology server.

Overtime, this will improve clinical safety as health and care organisations and suppliers, can chose to have access to a consistent terminology mapping capability to support integrated care.

The deal provides a single-supplier procurement framework that will give health and care organisations across the UK an efficient route to procure a terminology server. 

This will allow buyers to share code system reference data from a central NHS Digital Terminology Server, enabling easier integration of local coding systems with national and international coding languages.

Approved researchers and planners will be able to draw upon reference data from the NHS Digital Terminology Server to create their own databases, where they will be able to map local and existing codes with new coding systems such as SNOMED-CT.

CSIRO developed Ontoserver to match up common variations in clinical terminologies – such as “chest infection” vs “upper-respiratory infection” to help the different clinical coding software talk to each other.  It’s a “back end” solution, building on the NHS Digital's data register service. The solution will use the international FHIR standards1 to process codes, their descriptions and interrelationships, including complex queries.

The terminology server acts as a translation service and will support other tools such as the NHS Data Dictionary, which provides a reference point for information standards, such as the standard for how a date of birth or clinical conditions should be recorded, to support integrated health and care activities within the NHS in England. 

This gives users more flexibility in choosing the clinical terminologies and code systems that fit their needs.

This will help to supply reference data for NHS Digital’s Trusted Research Environment, a service that provides approved researchers with access to essential linked, de-identified reference health data.

In Wales, the Terminology Server will be delivered under the National Data Resource Programme as a core component of the NHS Wales Digital Health and Care Record Architecture.

The implementation of a FHIR terminology server will enable:

  • Once for Wales maintenance and distribution of both administrative and clinical code systems
  • Implementation and consistent use of SNOMED CT across NHS Wales
  • Analysis of clinical data within NHS Wales to improve population health
  • The ability to create and maintain maps between code lists that will facilitate safe data transformation when sharing across systems, services and organisational boundaries
  • Innovation - by providing an open platform to NHS Wales clinical code systems

Nicholas Oughtibridge, Principle Data Architect at NHS Digital said: “Recording data once and then reconciling, comparing and sharing the data safely has been a long-standing challenge across the NHS.

Ontoserver has the potential to transform the way in which data is captured, shared and analysed across health and care.

“The capabilities that Ontoserver delivers are key to enabling data from disparate systems to be safely and meaningfully exchanged between care providers, researchers and service planners.

“NHS data is already a valuable tool in fighting disease and finding new courses of treatment, but having access to more localised data, more quickly will have a real boost for researchers.”

Colin Henderson, Industry General Manager at DXC UK, said “Speaking a common language is essential for integrating healthcare and improving patient care. This agreement is a major step forward for the NHS in driving interoperability through the delivery of a common terminology across national, regional and local healthcare ecosystems”.

“The adoption of international health standards such as HL7 FHIR, and terminology sets such as SNOMED CT, are central to DXC’s interoperability solutions and the value they drive to unlock greater insights in health data.”

Dr David Hansen, CEO of CSIRO’s Australian e-Health Research Centre, said the new agreement demonstrates the benefits of science collaborating with industry to address healthcare challenges.

"Ontoserver already forms the foundation of Australia’s national clinical terminology platform, enabling integrated healthcare and helping healthcare professionals respond to patients’ needs appropriately,” Dr Hansen said.

“A shared health language is fundamental to innovation in healthcare around the world. Australian companies already using Ontoserver will find another market providing their local terminology using familiar software, while improvements to the software through this partnership will also be available for use in Australia.”

Rhidian Hurle, Medical Director NHS Wales Informatics Service & CCIO NHS Wales said “Structured, standardised and clinically meaningful data is fundamental to ensuring high quality data drives decisions to improve outcomes within our Health Service.

“The implementation of an NHS Wales Terminology Service is a significant development in our vision to deliver to the people of Wales first-class digital health and care services which will enable more effective, efficient, safer decision-making by providing access to content-rich, person-focused health and care data and information."


Notes for editors

    1. Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) is a standard for exchanging healthcare information electronically. More information about the technical aspect of how this is used in the Transfers of Care can be found here

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Last edited: 15 December 2021 3:13 pm