The NLH Enterprise Architecture – looking to the future

For a couple of years now I have had a copy of “An Enterprise Architecture for the National Library for Health: Direction of travel and deliverables” sat in my inbox.  At the time I was preparing a report considering HDAS (the NHS in England interface for searching literature databases) and I wanted to remind myself of the content of this dimly remembered document.  Linda Ferguson kindly dug it out (on a site since dead) and it has been sat nagging me ever since.

The version of the EA above dates from 2006.  I confess I failed to grasp the scope of the vision it represented at the time.  The language is by nature technical but the ambition is very clear.  A number of initiatives now under way in the NHS in England could be plucked directly from this document and would certainly be much easier to deliver if we had gone further down some of the paths it suggests.

The document lays out a plan for delivery of NHS Library web based services.  At the core is the need for “a set of interoperable, networked services that conform to appropriate open standards”.  This would be supported by various things such as shared schemas for meta data and a central registry for API specifications.

I want to consider how the implications anticipated at the time have worked out and where things might be going in the future.

There were several implications identified for national services

 

A coherent and integrated user journey is desired. Presentation layers, what the user sees as a web page and how results are presented, will be separate from content and services and owned and built by the NHS.

Procurement will focus on content and the necessary APIs to integrate content into the discovery and current awareness processes. Increasingly, we do not wish to purchase content locked into any single portal.

A core search service will index all NHS content. It too will have a SOA, providing the basis for search pages. It will integrate with related services such as link resolvers

An NHS resolver service will be a key component in the delivery process. The NHS will wish to procure and own a resolver solution as a managed service.

An NHS library– wide Access Management System is being procured. Use of this system will be mandated for information suppliers. It will be SAML compliant.

Much of this has come to pass though perhaps without the core search service.

HDAS has reasonably successfully allowed for changes to the suppliers of content (databases) without massively impacting the experience of searching for the end user.  The varying API offered by suppliers have not fully supported the consistent search experience desired and there have been performance issues.  What has not happened perhaps is the ongoing integration of other services such as document supply and support at the point of need into HDAS.

We have seen the procurement and integration into HDAS of different link resolving solutions.  OpenAthens has been a long standing partner for access management.

Looking to the future work is underway to deliver an NHS England wide discovery solution and how well this maintains control over the web page and presentation of results will be interesting.  This could potentially be the “core search service”?  NHS Evidence already does this job for some categories of materials but stays away from the literature databases that would swamp the materials it aims to present.

A missed opportunity was the investment to create an NHS England wide Library Management System based in one of the Open Source solutions.  A small central team could have administered and developed a tailored approach that would have matched some of the ambititions of the EA.  I suspect the overall cost over the past decade would have been significantly lower and the opportunities for creating a platform for services greater.

There were also implications flagged for local services

local e-content, whether procured or NHS generated can, by adhering to EA principles, be integrated with national content, either within NLH or within other portals.

New services can be built up around this technology. For example, local current awareness and alerting services can be integrated with national services to provide the user with one way of getting knowledge updates

A single NHS library-wide Access Management System provides web Single Sign-on linking library services to their user base and will provide a bridge to NHS SSO services, opening up library service to non-library users.

Generally we have been happily plugging in locally procured content into national systems.  A gap has been around a solution for ebooks and this will need to be addressed in any new discovery layer as this format grows in importance.  The ability to integrate local content will depend on standards and considering these might be an early priority (as fixing them later will be trickier).

Recent revisions to HLISD will hopefully have maintained the commitment to the important location and service information being available via API to build other service offers.  The wide adoption of KnowledgeShare raises questions of how this (or an equivalent) might be integrated into a future national digital service.

In an ideal world we would have single sign on using peoples Trust logins – any additional login (even one as familiar as OpenAthens) is an unwanted barrier so an NHS SSO is the right ultimate target.


So quite a lot progressed and quite a lot left to do.  As the NHS in England moves towards the procurement of a new discovery tool it feels to me more critical than ever that we maintain the drive of the NLH Enterprise Architecture for the delivery of “a set of interoperable, networked services that conform to appropriate open standards”.  What I would like to see more of is the role of the person supporting at the point of need within that networked service.

These are my views based on my involvement with various aspects of the health libraries system at different points.  I am very happy to be corrected on points of accuracy – and challenged on matters of opinion!

Palliative care training session thoughts

I run tailored search training sessions for different groups of healthcare staff.  After a year or so in post I am starting to see some groups for the second time and finding that I have not always recorded some of the useful things I found out ahead of time.  So I will share some of them here from time to time to help my memory.  Peoples suggestions of other interesting things will be welcome.

The group today were are all doctors working in palliative care.

A good starting point was the NHS Evidence Palliative Care Topic not least as it includes a link to one of the NICE Pathways.

Some web searching retrieved a great site I had used last time and promptly forgotten CareSearch. This Australian site has lots of tips on searching and includes a brilliant tool for launching canned searches on palliative care topics via PubMed.

Some useful tips to help me think about search headings came from a chance find of a slide set by a colleague.

A more general introduction to research for palliative care from the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care includes literature searching but also lots of helpful contextual information.

Finally the National End of Life Care Intelligence Network includes various publications and tools. What we know now looks a brilliant annual update on changes to the palliative care knowledge base.  Hopefully there having joined Public Health England will not stop this useful work continuing.

During the session we used a search for Fentanyl and Constipation to explore search concepts.

Using Medline I was able to show value in MeSH searching by retrieving additional references for only some small tweaks to the keywords and basic subject headings.

Any other brilliant palliative care search resources I should have mentioned?

NHS E-resource transfer deadline day news

The first phase of the 2015-2018 NHS national content procurement has completed. This is a pretty big deal both in terms of the sums involved (in NHS library terms), the duration and the scope of resources involved.

Given the tight, and tightening, budget situation in the public sector it is not a great suprise that some tough decisions are having to be made.

There are three main points likely to be stressing people out in the current announcement.

1. No CINAHL (with or without fulltext) – this is an important database for lots of searches / professions. Medline coverage has improved in some of the areas it covers and BNI access continues but it has generally been regarded as one of the basics. Hopefully this can come through in the second phase of procurement. It will be interesting to consider what happens if it does not with variation in access from Trust to Trust likely to be the result. After EBSCO stopped CINAHL being available on other platforms you have to wonder what they offered by way of pricing. If libraries end up buying CINAHL individually will it still be possible to search it via HDAS?

2. Medline moves to Proquest. This is a big surprise as Medline is normally an inexpensive resource on Ovid and other databases have been retained through this supplier. Given there will still be a contract with Wolters Kluwer you would hope they would find a way to chuck it in for the NHS. I have not tried to do much in the way of systematic searching via Proquest but it is not a prospect that fills me with excitement. Time to start polishing those PubMed skills perhaps. Proquest via OpenAthens also does not play nicely on machines that are IP authenticating other Proquest resources so there may be a problem anywhere this is the case.

3. No BMJ journal titles. This is the end of a long standing deal. Generally the NHS gets charged high prices for low usage by most publishers. The cost per use would be interesting for the past contract.

There is a strand of concern about how quickly the changes to the suppliers of databases can be robustly implemented on HDAS. I am less concerned about this – all of the suppliers are currently already working through HDAS so we have less change than when we transitioned away from DIALOG. Probably a bit brave given the regular HDAS wobbles but I think it should be alright.

We are obviously only part way through the procurement so it will be interesting to see what things look like by the end of the month. All support to the negotiators doing a tricky job. I hope suppliers take the time to consider their customers when pricing things up.