A view from the chief clinical informatics officer summer school

The clinical lead in education for the RCP's Health Informatics Unit (HIU), Dr Amitava Banerjee, joined clinical informatics leaders and enthusiasts across the public, private and third sectors at a 2-day event held in Manchester on 13–14 July 2017. Here he shares points the event raised about how the future of health informatics is developing.

The joint CCIO (chief clinical informatics officer), CIO (chief informatics officer), CNIO (chief nursing informatics officer) network summer school brings together all stakeholders in UK health informatics. In between excellent keynote speeches by the national CCIO, Keith McNeil, and CIO, Will Smart, I was taken by the tremendous opportunities for informatics now available across the NHS. For example, the advent of the NHS Digital Academy, the new Faculty of Clinical Informatics (being established jointly by the RCP and the Royal College of General Practitioners), the Federation of Informatics Professionals and the Global Digital Exemplar scheme are all helping to professionalise and innovate the health informatics sector.

We’re already seeing the benefits of initiatives where partners are working together to share knowledge across the country. The recent NHS cyber-attack perfectly illustrates the need for and the strength of such a network. This active, inclusive CCIO online forum aided exchange of information which pre-empted mainstream knowledge and coverage of the ransomware attack by several hours, and undoubtedly prevented further disruption.  

There were, however, three aspects which I thought required more consideration:

  1. The focus of informatics across the health and social care sectors emphasises procurement and implementation. However, evaluation, if present, seems to be an afterthought. This strongly limits the transferability of lessons learned and is a barrier to developing further.
  2. While UK health informatics research is thriving, exemplified by the recent formation of Health Data Research UK (a new core-funded national institute), that research and clinical application are still not properly aligned locally or nationally in this space. This was not properly touched on at the event, and I believe a conversation around this would be very beneficial in helping to combine these two streams.
  3. I noted that the IT and technology industries appear to be viewed differently from other private companies in the NHS (eg medical devices). There are often different terms such as ‘suppliers’ and ‘providers’ which are being used. The scope for conflicts of interest is no less than in other industry interactions, yet a coordinated and integrated code of practice is essential both locally and nationally. 

The CCIO/CIO/CNIO is and will be crucial to the solutions to these problems, and I look forward to joining in the conversation as health informatics enters these exciting times.

Dr Amitava Banerjee, clinical lead in education for the RCP's Health Informatics Unit

If you are interested in tackling the issues described in this blog please get in touch with the Health Informatics Unit: informatics@rcplondon.ac.uk.