HSCN stands for Health and Social Care Network which is a plan first introduced in 2015 to modernise NHS systems. The precursor called N3 has been around for fifteen years and was fit for purpose at the time, a fast secure network that connected millions of health workers and employees across the UK. However, as new and more useful technologies emerge, N3 found it difficult to integrate them and gradually it began to lag behind, lacking the facilities, collaborative properties and efficiencies which were readily available with more modern systems.
What is HSCN?
The intention behind HSCN is manifold, benefits include:
- Enhancing more regional collaboration with fluid integration
- Increasing reliability
- Offering flexibility for healthcare workers and medical and social care organisations
- Opening up the health sector to a competitive arena and moving on from the culture of single supplier contracts that existed previously, allowing users to choose their own network suppliers perhaps in conjunction with other healthcare bodies
The key improvements are increased cost efficiency and service performance.
How does HSCN differ from N3?
N3 was designed to be a single supplier service for NHS providers to access national applications; contrast this with HSCN which is purpose-built to bring in multiple suppliers to tender for connectivity services working to common standards and on an integrated platform.
Other enhancements include:
- Analysis functionality not a feature of N3
- The ability to detect irregular traffic volumes
- Comprehensive security monitoring
What are the principles of HSCN?
HSCN consists of integrated networks run by multiple organisations that are required to comply with clear and defined standards providing a single network solution. Healthcare providers are therefore able to share and exchange information regardless of the identity of the network provider or their geographical location in the UK. Private and public connectivity will be available over one connection.
What are the overarching objectives of HSCN?
HSCN envisions a 21st-century health service where health care provision and services are easily accessible online. Defined objectives are:
- Assisting health care providers and social care bodies to comprehensively transfer their working practices online and also to use cloud-based facilities
- Transferring critical services which are not currently available digitally thus improving transmissibility and access
- Reinforcing cybersecurity and helping medical and social care organisations better protect themselves against digital predation
The bigger picture
HSCN is designed to underpin key health initiatives including:
- NHS England Five Year Forward View
- National Information Board ‘Paperless 2020’
- Sustainability and Transformation Plans
- Local Digital Maps
The benefits across these initiatives and plans are multifarious and include:
- Creating digital arrangements that promote integration between organisations and flexible working patterns
- Regional collaboration
- Safe, flexible, efficient and instantaneous sharing of data
- A reduction in duplication of resources and effort through shared infrastructures
The competitive marketplace for network services will lead to improvements in costs and efficiency just by the process of natural market forces; the efficiencies will save money but the abandonment of the single supplier culture will also drive down pricing.
The benefits of HSCN
Some organisations within the healthcare sector are still somewhat in the dark about HSCN and its core benefits. In simple terms, these can be summarised as the following key advantages:
- The facilitation of staff working together across multiple healthcare settings
- Easier sharing of plans, care records, staff data and confirmation of NHS numbers
- Standardised networks
- Overall cheaper services and connectivity than has been in place under N3
- Better and more secure ability to exchange data between different healthcare organisations and social care services
Fifteen years is a long time in terms of technological advancement and HSCN represents real progress for the NHS and connected social care services and healthcare organisations. However, certainly as far as digital security is concerned, this is always an evolving picture and there is a strong emphasis on the message that no network is ever 100% secure and each individual user or body must perform their own risk assessments and implement appropriate security controls.
There are plenty of organisations keen to encourage reluctant converts to join HSCN and become involved in the provision of services now that the marketplace has opened up.
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