Health Care Bill introduced to UK Parliament

The UK’s new Health Care Bill was introduced to the House of Commons today, in a bid to deliver more joined up care. 

However it faces criticism from independent think tanks, the Health Foundation the Nuffield Trust for plans to make NHS Englmore accountable to the government. 

Under the reforms, Integrated Care Boards (ICB) Integrated Care Partnerships (ICP) will be responsible for bringing together local government NHS services in England, such as social care, mental health public health services. 

The Bill also includes plans for a new NHS public health procurement regime to improve delivery of social care services through new assurance data sharing measures, updated legal framework to enable person-centred models of hospital discharge increased powers for the secretary of state to make direct payments to adult social care providers.


The Bill plans builds on proposals in the NHS Long Term Plan to make health care services less bureaucratic, more accountable, more integrated in the wake of COVID-19.


The reforms were outlined in the Queen’s speech in May following an announcement in February by former health secretary Matt Hancock.


Health secretary Sajid Javid said: “To help meet demand, build a better health service bust the backlog, we need to back the NHS, as it celebrates its 73rd birthday this week, embed lessons learned from the pandemic. This will support our health care services to be more integrated innovative so the NHS can deliver for people in the decades to come.”

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said: “This Bill contains widely supported proposals for integrated care, which have been developed consulted on over recent years by the NHS itself. They go with the grain of what our staff patients can see is needed, by removing outdated bureaucratic legal barriers to joined-up working between GPs, hospitals, community services.”

Dr Jennifer Dixon, Health Foundation chief executive, said: “Provisions to boost integrated care have widespread support could help improve care for patients, although the potential benefits of these changes should not be oversold. The part of the Bill giving the Secretary of State more power over the NHS is politically driven, has no clear rationale risks taking health care backwards.”

Nigel Edwards, Nuffield Trust chief executive, said: “There is a clear logic to the parts of this Bill that would allow the NHS to collaborate more, as it has been trying to do for years in the face of the unhelpful 2012 Health Social Care Act. But unfortunately these changes are bundled up with new powers for politicians to control the detail of how the health service runs. The evidence of the past suggests this may lead to worse decisions, they will come to regret it.”

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HIMSS21 Changemaker Podcast: Alison Connelly-Flores of Urban Health Plan

In the first episode of the HIMSS21 Changemaker Podcast series, a HIMSSCast production, Healthcare IT News Executive Editor Mike Miliard speaks with Alison Conelly-Flores, chief medical information officer at Urban Health Plan, a group of federally-qualified community health centers based in the Bronx, New York.

In this interview, Conelly-Flores explains how the provider’s electronic health record IT infrastructure were essential to its quick response as the COVID-19 public health emergency overwhelmed the city in spring of 2020. She describes UHP’s targeted patient engagement efforts to ensure vaccines could reach as many people as possible. And she spotlights the value of managing social determinants of health, especially in underserved communities – something that’s always been core to UHP’s mission.

In June, HIMSS (parent company of Healthcare IT News) named the first recipients of the Changemakers in Health Awards, meant to recognize leaders worldwide who are harnessing information technology toward better health outcomes. The awardees will be recognized at the 2021 HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition, scheduled for August 9-13 in Las Vegas. Check back in the weeks months ahead for more podcast interviews with other healthcare leaders from this year’s list.

Themes talking points in this Changemaker Podcast episode:

  • An overview of Bronx-based Urban Health Plan its patient population.
  • Challenges successes stories as CMIO at a FQHC.
  • How UHP responded to the hard-hit early days of the COVID-19 crisis in NYC.
  • Whether its technology infrastructure was up to the task as patient volumes increased.
  • Telehealth: Where it was pre-pandemic, how quickly it was scaled up?
  • How virtual care remote monitoring will be used by UHP going forward.
  • The value of EHR optimization, best practices for improving provider experience.
  • Patient engagement strategies for UHP’s vaccination outreach campaign.
  • How the pandemic has highlighted the need for greater attention to SDOH.

Links related to this episode:

HIMSS names 2021 Changemaker Award winners
EHR helps Urban Health Plan attend to ‘whole patient’
Readers share their stories of how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting them

Digital health tools can help with COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy
Medical groups urge racial data collection efforts for COVID-19 vaccinations

The role of health systems in empowering communities
Digital health literacy as a social determinant of health

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Meet the informaticist trying to solve the mystery of long COVID

So much about “long COVID,” more formally known as Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection, or PASC, is still unknown.

Why do some patients, weeks or months after their initial infection, still exhibit symptoms such as “brain fog,” shortness of breath or heart problems? What kinds of underlying conditions, or demographic characteristics, are associated with these lingering conditions? And how many people are still suffering?  

The National Institutes of Health is aiming to answer these questions others by launching an initiative that brings together experts to gather data around thousands of PASC patients.   

Announced in February of this year, the PASC Initiative, also known as RECOVER, is a multimillion dollar project to coordinate support analysis of nationwide medical information on COVID-19 “long-haulers.” By doing so, the agency hopes to improve understanding of how to treat long-term complications of the disease.

Dr. Shawn Murphy, chief research information officer at Mass General Brigham, is one of the leaders of the team serving as the PASC Data Resource Core. Over the course of the project, the DRC will facilitate the collection analysis of standardized data across different cohort studies, along with contributing to study designs.  

Murphy spoke with Healthcare IT News this week about the need to study PASC, the challenges involved with data collection standardization his hopes for the future of the project.  

Q: Tell me a bit about the PASC Initiative. How did it start, what’s the current status?

A: The government issued a request for applications. What they wanted to do was set up a pretty complicated system of data flow that came from hospitals, where they were going to find patients who had this really nasty result of COVID.   

For whatever reason, the virus leaves many of us with trouble breathing, heart problems or neuropsychiatric problems. By far one of the worst ones is this chronic fatigue syndrome – myalgic encephalomyelitis. You get this brain fog where it’s hard to concentrate. And of course with that comes depression. It’s been a really difficult thing. And these symptoms can appear a long time – over 30 days – after COVID. So that’s what we’re trying to figure out.

The place to start is with the patients. The data is coming from 20 adult sites, 10 pediatric sites seven autopsy sites: Some people don’t survive the syndrome or they die from something else.

It’s important to make sure we get enough different diversity in our populations; we found that COVID affects different kinds of populations differently. We think it’s the same mechanism – residual inflammation – but are each of those symptoms different kinds of inflammation? Or is it that the history of a person’s health worsens general inflammation?  

That’s something we need to figure out, from soup to nuts.  

Q: How are you planning to gather the data?

A: We’re trying to gather together 20,000 patients, more or less – depending on how many people are needed for the studies – from these 37 sites.

That’s kind of the starting place, then we collect three different kinds of data. There’s data that’s hand-entered by doctors or patients themselves, electronic health record data, imaging data – doing MRIs on the living the deceased.

Q: Can you say more about that hand-entered data? Where is it coming from, how do you extract it?   

A: What will happen is there will be two classes of hand-entered data. Providers will have case report forms. They have a schedule of visits. When the patient comes in they ask them a lot of questions, they’ll fill out the form specifically with the answers. We try to make the question as consistent as possible. 

The second class is from the patients themselves, who are often much more active with data entry. You can get a patient to put down every day how they’re feeling. They’re often willing to put in details every day: that they drank less water one day, for example. Those things are important.   

It’s like a needle in a haystack as far as what it is that’s actually able to help.  

Then we’ll use an app to capture the data.  

It all goes into the data resource core: the DRC. That’s what I lead, along with Chief of Biostatistics at Massachusetts General Hospital Andrea Foulkes Dr. Elizabeth Karlson, director of rheumatic disease epidemiology at Brigham Women’s Hospital.

If you really want a great thing, put together a biostatistician, an informatics person an epidemiologist. Those skill sets come together nicely to form a cohesive plan.

Q: Are all your study sites using the same EHR vendors?   

A: No. The plan is to get all this data filtering down to the DRC, where it can all be made interoperable.  

The way we do that is put it into a data meta-model called i2b2, or Informatics for Integrating Biology the Bedside – a project that’s been going on for over 15 years. What that does is it creates a place where data can all fit together. And then you can query it with web-based query tools see what kinds of data you have, what kinds of patients have which symptoms.   

Generally, what you have to do is get the data out of the EHR, manipulate it so it fits in the i2b2 transport it to the DRC. And we do it all without keeping the name of the patient.   

Q: I know this is a four-year study. What do your time line goals look like?  

A: They’re actively trying to recruit their first patient by September 1. This is extremely aggressive. Normally it would be a year before you recruit your first patient.   

We meet almost every day. It’s a very aggressive time line. But that’s the goal, because we need to figure out what we can do for our patients. The longer this goes on, the more disabled patients are going to be. You can see the impact something like this is going to have on our entire economy.

As far as we can tell, 10-15% of people who have had COVID are getting these kinds of symptoms. We’re really talking about quite an enormous number of patients going to be having this problem.

It’s going to have an incredible impact. There’s a lot of angst to get in there do something about it.  

This interview has been edited condensed for clarity. 

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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South Korea sets its sight on digital treatment for depression

The South Korean Ministry of Science Information Communications Technology is planning a 30 billion won ($26.2 million) investment in a research programme to develop digital treatments for depression.


Based on a news report by Seoul-based news agency Yonhap, the number of South Koreans with depression in 2019 went up to 800,000; the figure was projected to continue rising due to the impact of restrictions mounted against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The research programme will see the development of a digital service offering personalised depression diagnoses based on the real-time collection analysis of patient data.

The service will also provide preventive measures against mental illness by utilising smartphones other mobile devices. Potential digital treatments include games virtual reality.

The report noted that the Science ICT Ministry already set aside 14 billion won ($12.3 million) over the next four years for the said research programme, while the private sector also made a 14.9 billion won ($13 million) investment.

It was also reported that Naver Cloud of South Korean internet giant Naver Corp. was tapped to build a cloud infrastructure for the programme’s digital platforms.


Digitally enabled treatments are seen as alternatives to conventional methods of treating mental health conditions.

Last month, South Korean telecommunications firm KT Corporation entered into a strategic partnership with US-based bioelectronics developer NeuroSigma to jointly develop market new electronic therapies for neurological neuropsychological disorders, such as ADHD, depression epilepsy.

A year ago in July, Orexo unveiled its latest digital treatment called deprexis for treating symptoms of depression. Another digital health company, UpLift Health, created a mobile app that uses cognitive behavioural therapy to help people dealing with depression. It provides 12 rounds of a 45-minute chatbot-guided session where users can answer questions, take mental health exercises receive feedback guidance.

Meanwhile, a subsidiary of Google’s parent Alphabet, X, disclosed in November that it was working on a project called Amber to spot biomarkers of depression.

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From skin to bones: The benefits of a common labeling language for enterprise imaging

Every medical specialty uses imaging. A patient might have X-rays from a ten-year-old fracture along with MRI scans surgical photos from a recent cancer. The wealth of information affords doctors a more detailed look at a patient.

Enterprise imaging brings all of the specialties together. A photograph of a melanoma by a dermatologist, say, may be of interest to a patient’s primary care physician when trying to recommend care or next steps.

Making all this imaging available to relevant clinicians in an easily accessible way can deliver more efficient integrated care. How these images are presented searchable, however, can get pretty complicated, says Dr. Alexander Towbin of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

“A picture is worth a thouswords, that’s generally true but it’s because we understthe picture,” said Towbin, who will present at HIMSS21 in Las Vegas next month. “As a radiologist I can tell the story of an X-ray because I can understthe image.”

Dr. Towbin is among a group of imaging experts working to define a common ontology of body part labeling across enterprise imaging. This language will allow a variety of clinicians to access understa patient’s full relevant data, he says.

At HIMSS21, Towbin will discuss how the HIMSS-SIIM Enterprise Imaging Community plans to advocate for the ontology to be incorporated as part of existing standards such as DICOM HL7 FHIR.

He’ll describe the three metadata elements needed to selection of a relevant comparison imaging examination; explain how experts were convened to select a standard body part ontology for use in enterprise imaging, preview the plan to foster adoption of a standard body part ontology for use in enterprise imaging

The specificity complexity of the medical landscape makes the task a challenging one. Towbin envisions a framework that works across specialties, practices, even borders. How much detail is too much?

“Within radiology, when I image a chest that includes everything like the heart, throat, bones,” he explained. “When a dermatologist images, it’s just skin. When a pathologist images, it’s down to cells. We need an imaging language that works across all of that, that everyone can relate to.”

A common language for imaging means different specialties can see relevant images for a patient from earlier on in their care process. Called a “hanging” or “downstream” protocol, Towbin says that these automated workflows can streamline the care process, putting the right information in front of the right clinician at the right time.

“Being able to see all of the images next to each other, each specialist can see … the patient more holistically,” he says.

The process of developing an industry-standard body part ontology, at least at the start, may be a slow one. Finding a common language that can suit both an oncologist a physical therapist without being over- or under-specific means gathering input buy-in across a range of specialties organizations.

“What we’re trying to do is going to take vendor support, society support, support from standards bodies, informatics pros, physicians nursing,” says Towbin. “We want representation from across the medical spectrum.”

Dr. Towbin, along with his co-presenter, Kim Garriott, chief innovation officer for Global Healthcare at NetApp, will offer more detail in their session “Importance of Body Part Labeling in Enterprise Imaging.” It’s scheduled for Tuesday, August 10 from 2:30-3:30 p.m. in Caesars Summit 211.

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