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  1. Government Computing
November 10, 2020

Solid! Solid as a pod!

The challenges of patient access and interoperability have plagued the NHS for decades as it desperately attempts to figure out how best to manage its data. We’ve seen a myriad of initiatives from interoperability groups such as INTEROPen, regional programmes such as Local Health and Care Records (LHCR) and even the fabled NHS app. However, another initiative is now blazing a trail into the market, led by none other than Mr World Wide Web himself.

By jonathan cordwell

Credit: Niek Verlaan from Pixabay

This week, Inrupt, a company established two years ago by web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee and entrepreneur John Bruce, released its Enterprise Solid Server (ESS), an enterprise open-source version of its core Solid product.

In simple terms, Solid is an online platform on which users can store their data in a personal online data store, known as a “pod”. Taking healthcare as an example, the patient will control their own data store and grant access to those who need it, as and when they need it. Users can put whatever information they feel relevant into their pod and utilise third-party apps to contribute and analyse their data.

Previously somewhat of an academic project, ESS is now being piloted by a variety of high-profile enterprise clients across numerous industries, one of which is The Greater Manchester Health and Social Care partnership, who are looking to apply the technology to support dementia patients.

Despite its potential, efforts in this space rarely face a smooth route to market. One challenge that Inrupt faces – along with the NHS for that matter – is the variation in patient usage if granted complete control. Some will likely be actively involved whilst others will leave it to fester. Some will embrace the ease of leaving it open to all whilst others will guard it with their lives, akin to Gollum and the One Ring. This variation will, however, epitomise the fact that every patient is unique.

On top of this, one must also question whether this will, in turn, impede existing population health initiatives that seek to utilize clinical data en masse or whether this will add an additional and independent capability to what’s already out there.

Not wanting to be a Debbie Downer, the advantages at a personal level are evident as it bypasses the need for clinical systems to be interoperable with each other and instead places the patient at the centre of their own care. This will likely appeal to sceptics who frequently question how their data is being managed, utilised, and shared.

Those concerned with data security and privacy will, however, take solace in the appointment of cyber guru Bruce Schneier as its chief of security architecture and John Bruce – who previously headed up Resilient before it was sold to IBM – as CEO.

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Is this decentralised model the answer though? Not too long ago, the market was abuzz with the potential of securely storing patient records on a blockchain but this hype seems to have fizzled out quickly. For now, I will try to quell my excitement but will be keeping an eye on how it evolves, especially within the NHS.

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