Archimedes’ Eureka moment came when he was in the bath. Mine came when I was in the shower. I was faced with what seemed like a tricky challenge: make the subject of interoperability interesting enough to grab delegates’ attention at the healthcare IT conference at which I was due to speak.

As I turned it over in my head, I realised what I really wanted to talk about was the value of sharing information in the NHS. My mind wandered to the importance of the information rich sharing with the information poor. That sounded a lot like Robin Hood to me. And so the Robin Hood principle of information sharing was born. 

It’s something I’m passionate about. As a GP, I know the care I can deliver to a patient is really only as good as the information I have about him or her. Patients expect me – quite reasonably – to know exactly what has happened at every step of their healthcare journey. They don’t expect my knowledge to be subject to which computer systems can successfully talk to one another. 

Get data sharing right and you get safer, faster and more precise care. You get a system in which it is much easier to know, recognise and reimburse on outcomes as opposed to on activity. You create a more satisfying working experience for clinicians, a less frustrating journey through the system for patients, and tangible efficiencies for healthcare organisations. 

In recent years, there has been significant progress to making this vision a reality. Signatories of the 2015 techUK interoperability charter pledged to make their information systems more open and easier to integrate. That same year, the ‘Newcastle Declaration’ saw chief clinical information officers (CCIOs) call for interoperability to be recognised as central to safe and high quality care. 

Both were of real importance, but I and other colleagues felt a concrete project was needed to progress the agenda. And so INTEROPen was born, a group of parties who are interested in creating national interoperability standards. 

We’re now working on a set of standards for what we call Michael’s story. Michael is an fictional patient, but his needs are the same as many people out there: he has multiple complex conditions, is bouncing around the care sector to get the support he needs, and for him to get the best care he really needs information to flow around the system with him. The standards we’re developing will mean that’s exactly what happens. We firmly believe data sharing saves lives. 

The issue isn’t that there has been a lack of desire to drive interoperability previously. It’s more that lots of individual parties have been ploughing their own furrows. That’s why I’m delighted that at this year’s Interop Summit, held in early March, all interested parties agreed to unite under the INTEROPen banner. The Summit is an educational event with the aim of bringing everyone to a common understanding of interoperability. So what better occasion to announce the coming together of all these partners. 

Really, we’ve all publicly pledged to being Robin Hoods – moving information from the data rich to the data poor; giving better care and saving lives as a result. Whether you’re a vendor, a provider, or a commissioner, I hope you’ll join our band of merry men and women, considering how you too can contribute to better data sharing within healthcare. Clinicians, patients and the system itself can only benefit. To find out more contact INTEROPen at membership@interopen.org.

Dr Amir Mehrkar is Chief Clinical Information Officer, Orion Health, and co-founder, INTEROPen and the InteropSummit. Follow the movements on Twitter @interopenapi @interopsummit