Skip to main content

Interoperable medicines standards

We are going to define and encourage healthcare services to adopt interoperable medicines standards.

To share information about medications, intolerances and allergies effectively, all services must speak the same language. One way of achieving this is to use a single terminology, which turns information into a shared language of codes that everyone understands and uses.

These shared vocabularies for recording medicines information and data formats will lead to safer, more joined up patient care, reduced risks to patient safety and burden on staff, and will lay the foundations for a single consolidated patient medication record.

To achieve this goal, healthcare IT systems transferring medication information need to adopt dm+d and the latest UK Core FHIR standards, as these define the format that NHS organisations should use to transfer this data.

FHIR standards

Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR, pronounced 'fire') is a standard describing data formats and elements (known as 'resources') and an application programming interface (API) for exchanging electronic health records (EHR). The standard was created by the Health Level Seven International (HL7) healthcare standards organization.

FHIR builds on previous data format standards from HL7, like HL7 version 2.x and HL7 version 3.x. FHIR is easier to implement because it uses a modern web-based suite of API technology, including a HTTP-based RESTful protocol, and a choice of JSON, XML or RDF for data representation.

One of its goals is to facilitate interoperability between legacy health care systems, to make it easy to provide healthcare information to healthcare providers and individuals on a wide variety of devices, such as computers, tablets or mobile phones. It also allows third-party application developers to provide medical applications which can be easily integrated into existing systems.

To support development and testing, a FHIR Test Tool and guidance is available to help apply the interoperable medicines standards in a consistent manner and enable interoperability across the NHS.

One standard used by all

When all trusts adopt FHIR we will have one standard which can be used to enable the seamless, digital flow of medicines information across health and care reducing medicines related clinical incidents and harm.

dm+d adoption

dm+d is an electronic dictionary of medicines and devices. It's crucial to sharing medicines information safely and easily. By providing standard codes and descriptions for all medicines in use in the UK, dm+d gives NHS organisations a common vocabulary to use when recording and sharing medicines information.

Without dm+d, we’re left with the same risks, inconsistencies and inefficiencies of paper prescriptions. For example, people describe medicines in different ways which leads to inconsistencies and, potentially, errors with prescribing.

dm+d is safer

Its unique vocabulary allows the safe and reliable exchange of information between systems, whether that’s within a trust or in the community. ​

dm+d is more reliable

dm+d makes everyone’s life easier. Staff can find reliable information on medicines in whatever setting they are in, patients do not have to repeat themselves and explain their history time and again, or struggle to access basic information about their medicines' history. 

This smooth, safe movement of information is good for care and makes giving the best care, easier.

By reducing duplication of data entry and the potential for errors, busy teams can do what they do best and focus on patient care.

dm+d is smarter

If we use the same vocabulary for medicines across the country, we’ll build up a detailed view of what’s really working, what’s happening to patient outcomes and what it’s really costing. This doesn’t just help individual finance and pharmacy teams, it provides commissioners with vital data, easily and accurately.

dm+d resources

Find dm+d resources on our Resources for professionals page.

Our delivery timeline

July 2021

We will create a core set of fully interoperable medicines standards that have been defined and tested by early adopters and are available to system suppliers. We will also run a dm+d education and awareness campaign in secondary care. See more about dm+d below.

October 2021

An Information Standards Notice will be published, giving Trusts a legal framework to support wider adoption of interoperable medicines standards that have been incorporated into national programmes. A network of secondary care providers will be set up to provide support for wider dm+d adoption.

March 2023

By this time we are aiming for interoperable medicines standards to be adopted nationally by healthcare providers. This will underpin the transfer of medicines information for hospital admission and discharge. Early adopters will be demonstrating the capability of a consolidated patient medication record.

Further information

internal Electronic Prescription Service - next generation

The Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) will be enhanced and aligned to national interoperability standards and made available for use by all care settings, with increasing adoption across secondary care. This will improve the patient experience and reduce the burden on staff.

Last edited: 16 May 2022 1:22 pm