RCP announces closure of the Health Informatics Unit

After 16 years of work at the forefront of clinical informatics, the Health Informatics Unit (HIU) will close for business on 29 March 2019.

The closure of the HIU has been a difficult decision for the RCP but comes as a result of renewed and different thinking on how, as a professional body, we contribute to the increasingly fast-moving digital and new technologies agenda, and how we ensure financial sustainability for these developments.

Achievements of the HIU

Since 2002, the HIU has played a unique and leading professional role in the field of health informatics. It has supported integrated and person-centred care by developing standards to enable accurate and comprehensive information to be readily shared between professionals and care settings, and extended this approach across all health and social care disciplines through taking a leading role in the establishment of a Professional Records Standards Body.

The HIU has:

  • driven the inclusion of digital health in medical education and the development of a career pathway for those wanting to specialise in clinical informatics
  • played a leading role in the establishment of a Faculty for Clinical Informatics, a professional membership organisation whose remit is to support the development of the capabilities needed to ensure clinical leadership of digital health
  • led the RCP’s policy and professional guidance in the field of digital health including effective and safe use of new technologies, such as apps and artificial intelligence
  • contributed to the delivery of sustainable healthcare for the future through contributions on digital health and innovation to the Future Hospital and Our Future Health programmes
  • had a leading influence on national digital health policy
  • led the debate on the need for accurate, standardised and comprehensive clinical information recorded at the point of care to support care delivery, high-quality audit and research, and the development of precision medicine.

The HIU’s dedicated team has developed wide-ranging expertise across health informatics, project management, digital health services, quality improvement and research. Team members are being supported to either find new opportunities within the RCP, or with partner organisations.

Celebrating success

We should in particular pay credit to the leadership of the HIU, especially its director Professor John Williams CBE, programme manager Jan Hoogewerf, the HIU team and the associates who have given their time so generously since it opened in 2002. John is a leader in the field, and we are delighted that he will be supporting us with the recruitment of the new clinical director for digital health.

Health Informatics Unit conference

Colleagues from the Health Informatics Unit gather outside the RCP before the conference.

On Tuesday 26 February over 80 attendees celebrated the work of the HIU through a series of short presentations. RCP president Professor Andrew Goddard emphasised the importance of digital care and how the RCP will continue to work in this area. Keynote speaker Martin Severs stressed that making the best use of computers to ease clinicians' workload and gain a clinical dividend is heavily reliant on standards of record keeping.

Digital health strategy and clinical director for digital health

New technologies have the potential to transform health and improve patient care. The RCP believes that this is a critical issue for our profession, resulting in the decision to invest in developing a comprehensive digital healthcare strategy. The strategy will be focused on influencing this fast-moving agenda, to ultimately realise safe and evidence-based technological benefits for patients and the NHS.

The strategy’s development will be led by a new clinical director for digital health. We are seeking a consultant-level clinician to focus on providing clinical and strategic leadership to the RCP and its fellows, members and staff on all matters relating to digital healthcare.