EHI Live 2011: A Skunkworks Approach to Healthcare

On November 7-8, EHealth Insider will be hosting its 2-day conference and exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, UK. The EHI Live 2011 will supply conference delegates with the latest updates on healthcare policy and innovation in the NHS while providing plenty of networking opportunities to all involved. Most significant, the exhibition will showcase an open source skunkworks concentrated on using open source software to solve healthcare problems.

Promoted as the essential conference and exhibition for the health IT community, this year's event will include the EHI Live 2011 Best Practice Showcase (bringing “exciting case studies” to the exhibition) and the EHI Awards Theatre (giving winners and finalists from the EHI Awards 2010 a chance to discuss their works in progress).

The Open Source Skunkworks

At the exhibition, a new enterprise will be introduced to this year's program: a healthcare skunkworks committed to showing how open source software can help solve even the thorniest healthcare difficulties.

Malcolm Newbury, an open source consultant and co-chair of Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise UK who is directly involved in the project, described it as a highlight of the conference that “will create opportunities for delegates and visitors to interact with open source developers and see the wide range of healthcare applications that have been built on open source platforms.” Interaction is strongly encouraged: “Every question that is sent in will be allocated an answer slot...[and] will be dealt with through a presentation or demonstration.”

In this article, Newbury argues that “the clinical relationship with IT across the NHS can be reinvigorated through hands-on solution building with open source software.” Difficulties in health IT frequently arise because of stale and bureaucratic rules, restrictions, and security measures that stifle flexibility and the capacity to grow and evolve in order to meet the needs of the user base.

This is true of corporate IT in general, but it is especially true of the NHS. The past few years' attempts to upgrade the NHS IT system have thus far met with monumental failure. Perhaps this is because it takes too much time for a monolithic, bureaucratic system to upgrade; perhaps because it is impossible for such an organization to stay current with technology, which is constantly fluctuating and evolving. At any rate, it seems apparent that a different approach is needed. Newbury suggests the best of both worlds: open source software plus an environment of high innovation, autonomy, and the banishment of bureaucracy—in other words, a skunkworks.

The EHI Awards Theatre:

This year, six winners and finalists from the EHI Awards 2010 (in association with BT) will take the floor in a series of free sessions throughout the duration of the conference. As stated on the EHI website, “They will outline the work that made them winners, the impact it has had, and the latest developments in their projects.”

The speakers will address various technologies and the impact their applications would have (or have had) on the healthcare community today. Topics include telehealth, computer modelling and simulation, Patientrack, newly strategized IT systems, and more.

The EHI Live 2011 Practice Showcase:

Sponsored by Carefx, the Practice Showcase will invade the exhibition with “exciting case studies” and feature a series of free sessions on both conference days. Presentations will last fifteen minutes and will boast a largely interactive atmosphere designed to stimulate questions and further discussion.

Several speakers will present, including various representatives and high-ranking leaders from the NHS. Among other case studies, presenters will describe and discuss the implementation of an electronic document management system; the issues surrounding electronic document transfer in healthcare; the use of consultation and engagement to support commissioning decisions; and more.