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NHS Launches API Lab To Promote Health Sector Data Exchange

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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NHS Digital is to collaborate with the supplier-led INTEROPen group on the development of APIs for exchanging health data

healthThe NHS is to set up a lab for the development of open application programming interfaces (APIs) by the end of this year to facilitate data sharing amongst public sector bodies as well as between healthcare organisations and the private sector.

The lab, created in collaboration with the INTEROPen helath sector interoperability initiative, is to be headquartered in Leeds and NHS Digital said it expects both public sector and industry to take part on a pro bono basis.

The NHS has back-end systems in view as well as making it easier for clinicians to share and access patient information at the point of care.

The lab’s governance and principles are currently being shaped, and NHS Digital said it invites expressions of interest from suppliers interested in taking part in that process.

Health data exchange

INTEROPen is supplier-led group, supported by NHS England and NHS Digital, that was formed last year with the aim of ensuring suppliers have a say in the development of health sector interoperability standards.

It is working in areas including the development of information exchanges between different care settings, the validation of data exchange profiles and the definition of APIs for automated patient care notifications amongst service providers.

The organisation’s board called the API lab “a very positive development”.

APIs developed by the new lab are to use an open source licence, NHS Digital said.

“By partnering with INTEROPen we will be able to create APIs even faster, delivering real benefits for the health and care system,” stated Richard Kavanaugh, head of data standards at NHS Digital, who is to head the API development effort.

The NHS has faced difficulties over its use of sensitive patient data to build applications in the past, notably in its failed collaboration with DeepMind, a UK artificial intelligence firm owned by Google.

The ICO ruled in July that the NHS’ DeepMind deal, signed late last year, broke data privacy rules because patients weren’t informed their information was being used.

Transport for London (TfL) estimated earlier this month its own ten-year-old open data programme adds £130m a year to the UK economy by spurring the development of third-party applications.

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