Hippo Digital based in Leeds city centre are working on some exciting initiatives within the healthcare sector to help deliver a viable alternative to the cost burden of technology on the NHS.
At present every NHS trust carries the strain of managing a hugely complex and costly technology estate. Toward the top of this list of burdens is maintaining the estate of Windows devices.
The issues this causes are:
- The management of these devices has been traditionally very costly, with continual large and costly upgrade cycles.
- The need to patch constantly.
- The requirement to buy costly and proprietary products to manage a closed operating system.
The NHS will shortly face a further budgetary hurdle with the demise of the NHS Microsoft EWA (Enterprise Wide Agreement), where all operating systems up to and including Windows 7 are included in a nationally agreed and funded package. This coupled with the end of extended support for Windows 7 looming in 2020 means NHS trusts are already needing to contemplate entering into further expensive licence agreements that will enable them to start mobilising their migration plans to Windows 10.
The big question is can Open Source software offer a viable alternative?
NHSbuntu is an initiative that aims to bring together the benefits of an Open Source platform such as Ubuntu with the specific needs of the NHS. The vision is that is will be possible to foster and grow a complete open source desktop ecosystem that is able to challenge, disrupt and eventually displace the incumbent closed Windows platform. The opportunity is that NHS Trusts are able to reduce technology expenditure, increase choice and freedom, and ultimately delivery better care for patients.
Hippo have been very active in driving forward the Healthcare Open Source agenda, and are currently working with several NHS trusts to solve identity challenges using and developing open source software.
The opportunity for IT to streamline costs, productivity, and user experience in a revered public service which is undergoing huge strain on it’s finances is a rewarding focus for their expertise.
NHSbuntu must overcome a number of obstacles in its bid to challenge the dominant position of Windows within healthcare. Toward the top of this list is the need to provide a secure platform and environment where patient data can be retrieved and updated.
Within the National Health Service the security and privacy of sensitive data relating to patients is held in the highest regard. The Care Record Guarantee makes a number of commitments to patients about how their information will be processed, used and stored in such a way that it is only accessed and used by those with appropriate access, and for the purpose of care.
The system behind this access is the NHS Care Identity Service, and the associated NHS Smartcard. To access clinical data on modern systems within the NHS a user must have been issued with a Smartcard, and granted appropriate clinical roles.
To date the NHS Smartcard has only worked with Windows, using proprietary ‘Identity Agent’ software managed and released by NHS Digital.
As part of the NHS Digital Summer Hackathon Hippo Digital Director Brett Jackson rolled his sleeves up and helped a small team of hackers create an alternative Identity Agent for the NHSbuntu platform.
Brett said “The new Open Source Identity Agent solves a significant technical obstacle to NHSbuntu becoming a viable healthcare platform, and means that the project takes a huge leap forward in its vision to challenge the dominance of Windows in the Healthcare space. It is an ongoing project with huge repercussions nationally and we are excited to be working on a project of this magnitude”.