Blogger Bruce Badger reckons it's time legislators stepped in to enforce data standards for the British health service. In an open letter to his MP, he says: “The money recently wasted on NHS systems was wasted because the focus was on *systems* not on data format standards. […] The NHS spectacularly (if unsurprisingly) failed to make the perfect fits-all-needs system, but they could have defined a first version of a standard interchangeable patient record, or even just how medical image data would be exchanged.”
Badger's complaint was prompted when he was given a CD of medical scans – none of which he, or his doctor, could open. He proposes that images could be encoded in a standard format such as TIFF, and an open standard developed in XML for the structured data.
I'm as surprised as Badger must have been to discover that anyone is using a proprietary standard for image data. I'm a little depressed to know that some hospital went to the time and expense of burning a disk that is of no use to anyone. But I'm cheered to see that the remedy is obvious: standards.
Britain's NHS is a public service. If legislation is needed to make it do the right and obvious thing by data standards, then so be it. I can only guess that NHS procurement people have no incentive to ensure patient data can be shared – even when they are buying solutions that produce expensive, dud takeaways for the patient.