Providing the Public with Web Services

Wednesday 17 September 2003

The Board Room, Moorfields Eye Hospital, City Road, EC1V 2CD

Three guests presented this topic to the group, and an on-line demonstration followed. Besides a general introduction, the specifics concentrated on progress at Southampton PCT which is being transferred also to Ealing PCT.

Michael Bone of Health Systems Consultants gave the introduction. As more and more people, both at work and at home, gain access to web services using simple browsers, so information and process opportunities are opening up within the NHS service providers and for the wider public.

For the NHS, there are web opportunities in booked admissions, in joined up care meeting NSF standards, and for the future Integrated Care Records Service (ICRS).

For the public, access to the internet via dial-up, broadband, and in Cafes and public libraries, will enable reading general information, receiving personalised information, and return channel participation in health management.

There are still some concerns. For the NHS there is a need, common to many applications besides just web access, for accurate ID, secure person to person links, and management of patient consent. For the public, there are similar concerns about confidentiality, and some about speed of access.

But, for all, there are considerable technology benefits from use of a consistent interface, with a low cost of ownership; from solutions already on-the-shelf; interoperable, and multimedia if required.

David Deakin of Interactivhealth talked about how their products have been developed for Southampton PCT to improve data access using web technology.

There is an assumption that the current model of delivery will remain, with the loca general practice functionality remaining central to primary healthcare. Within that, PCTs provide a new level of coordination for groups of primary care providers, and become relevant as a level at which the next wider stage of collaboration can occur. For example, PCT-wide web publishing enables common clinical engagement; collaboration on coordinated care; a consistent message to the public, and shared development of self-care packages.

Within Southampton PCT, there is a PCT web portal and an intranet (actually an extranet) for all professionals in the area. The ‘Modifi’ system allows local content management; the ‘Matrix’ publishing system includes centrally sourced news items; ‘Portico’ is web information for professionals; and ‘SePAS’ is intended to become a secure patient access system.

Content management is set up to be simple and is scaled to PCT size at an affordable cost. Roles and training are provided for content management down to practice level; similarly there are roles for news and content areas, with about 12 dispersed areas.

SePAS is not yet implemented, but the intention is to make it secure for the patient to the same standard as current internet banking. That requires no new technology and familiar procedures.

Glen Griffiths of Interactivhealth ran the demonstration directly on-line to the Southampton PCT site.

Practices retain their own web sites (if they want), and there are links to practice sites which can be their own URL on the common PCT server. Each practicew maintains its own content using Modifi which has passwording to protect publication down to the individual page level.

The systems were rolled out to practices, where all agreed that the web system was worth doing and all were keen to join in once it was offered. Whatever previous web publishing capacity might have been available the PCT system increased it and made content management more flexible. Ongoing positive criticism suggests that the systems are being actively used by those trained.

Besides static publication, progress on some on-line forms had shown how much more efficient these can be than paper.

Generally practices publish demographics about staff; appointments availability, leaflets and health promotion information. Much of this only needs occasional updating for definitive changes.

Professionals using the intranet have to be authenticated. The collation and management of staff ID and access profiles is essential for the project. In discussion it was agreed that the same applies to many NHS applications, and that ID should not have to be linked to any one application.