Apr 19, 2013 (07:04 AM EDT)
Hitachi, Manchester NHS Partner On Health IT

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 7 Big Data Solutions Try To Reshape Healthcare
7 Big Data Solutions Try To Reshape Healthcare
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A division of Britain's National Health Service will partner with Japanese tech firm Hitachi in a bid to build systems that can better help it better manage healthcare services.

The Tokyo-headquartered industrial giant, its Hitachi Consulting arm (which claims to "develop business models that combine cutting edge technology and management techniques for innovation in social infrastructure") and Hitachi strategic partner Eagle Matrix Consulting say they will help NHS entities in the North West on a range of health informatics projects.

Greater Manchester NHS in Greater Manchester, the Manchester Academic Health Science Centre and North West e-Health (a joint venture between the University of Manchester, Salford Royal NHS Trust and NHS Salford) have tapped the overseas firm to "work together towards planning and developing informatics technology to manage and improve patient care and population health" in their part of England.

"Our ideas on how informatics can transform the delivery, experience and management of healthcare will be a key business driver for us over the next decade," said Masaya Watanabe, VP and executive officer of Hitachi. "This partnership offers us the opportunity to contribute towards the enhancement of healthcare in the U.K. and eventually duplicate this model in other regions around the world."

[ What lessons can healthcare learn from other industries? Read U.K. IT Industry Offers Strategies To Improve NHS. ]

"There is a clear advantage in leveraging the synergies both in vision and technology between the Hitachi Group and the NHS in Manchester, where the wider health economy provides the ideal launch pad for innovative health services," added Hiroshi Ashibe, president of Hitachi Consulting.

The partners plan to spend the next 12 months drawing up plans for technology and service applications tailored towards the Greater Manchester population's health needs. Thus Yoshito Date, chief executive of Eagle Matrix Consulting, noted, "We are looking at technology as a facilitator of change -- where the holistic integration of public and private health data will create an open service and technology ecosystem that enables innovation for the better management of our health, providing much-needed focus on the new social paradigm of personalized health."

"By utilizing the wealth of our data more efficiently in combination with appropriate technology, we can improve our service delivery and public health support," added Mike Burrows, chief executive of NHS Manchester.

From the NHS side, "This initiative affords us a tremendous opportunity to develop new products and services of significant benefit to the NHS and people of Greater Manchester -- but it is also our joint intention to ensure scalability for the wider benefit of the rest of the U.K.," said professor Ian Jacobs, director of Manchester Academic Health Science Center.

While it's not that uncommon for North American tech firms to work with the NHS, involvement of an Asian firm is much less common. It seems that the NHS in the region was assisted by the national U.K. Trade and Investment (UKTI), an agency that works to "encourage the best overseas companies to look to the U.K. as their global partner of choice" and the Department of Health.

Indeed, there may be a wider agenda here, as the current Coalition government in the U.K. has talked of the opportunity represented for research, and possibly more, by the vast amount of data the NHS works with on a daily basis. "The NHS, with 60-plus million patients, has access to unrivalled, clinically coded, granular health data -- providing a unique opportunity to test innovative approaches to health informatics," said Mark Treherne, chief executive of UKTI's Life Science Investment Organization.

Regulatory requirements dominate, our research shows. The challenge is to innovate with technology, not just dot the i's and cross the t's. Also in the new, all-digital The Right Health IT Priorities? issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: Real change takes much more than technology. (Free registration required.)