Integration of Specialist Scientific Software In and For Health and Social Care (HBI113)

Module Objective

Bioinformatic analyses require specific IT skills that are often distinct from IT skills found in ‘traditional’ NHS IT departments and in the competences of those with embedded health informatics skills in their portfolios. In addition, the IT infrastructure of the NHS represents a unique environment and one that may not yet necessarily be aligned to supporting typical bioinformatics practices in health and social care. Consultant Clinical Scientists will not need to be experts in IT infrastructure as this is a role of systems administration, but CCSs will be required to make decisions with respect to existing/planned IT infrastructure and lead and develop services that capitalise on the infrastructure, systems, data and professional resources of the organisation.

By the end of this module Clinical Scientists in HSST should be aware of existing infrastructure (both local, and national, and delivered to support the NHS in its activities) as pertains to bioinformatics and of the constraints on NHS systems due to regulatory and security, confidentiality and privacy issues, as well as the need to support legacy systems. They will need to be able to initiate, assist, or oversee development of IT infrastructure to integrate bioinformatics into clinical diagnostic work streams and other applications of informatics into healthcare services. The Clinical Scientist in HSST will also be expected to consistently demonstrate the attitudes and behaviours necessary for the role of a CCS leading safe clinical bioinformatics services.

By the end of this module the Clinical Scientist in HSST will be able to analyse, synthesise, evaluate and critically apply their expert knowledge of IT infrastructure in the NHS. They should have an ‘outside’ perspective (e.g. international and/or industry) to inform strategy both within a laboratory or clinical setting and NHS more broadly, including:

Wider NHS:

  • national IT strategy;
  • local, government and NHS policy for current IT projects;
  • IT funding locally and in the NHS;
  • international and industry developments relating to Clinical Bioinformatics

Network and communication protocols, ICT standards:

  • legislation relating to licensing, software development, data security and network management, plus associated guidance documents;
  • implications of the legal requirements for data storage and archiving;
  • mechanisms required to maintain confidentiality, data systems integrity and access for data held electronically, as applied in healthcare;
  • ICT standards applicable to healthcare;
  • network and communication protocols (e.g. Transmission Control Protocol [TCP], Hypertext Transfer Protocol [HTTP], Secure Shell [SSH]).

IT security issues:

  • uses, value and risk in virtualisation and in cloud computing, including third-party storage of clinical data;
  • use of formal project management techniques in the wider management of clinical and scientific projects;
  • clinical data pathways and the associated requirements for information and clinical governance, safeguarding personal data, confidentiality, privacy, data protection and data exchange;
  • how computer system faults in the systems they use are reported, remedied and documented.

Hardware:

  • range of software applications, including the various operating systems, hardware platforms and networking arrangements;
  • arrangements for the procurement, maintenance, quality assurance, upgrade and replacement of the computer systems used;
  • computer systems;
  • evaluation and procurement;
  • local server vs cloud;
  • processing requirements (central processing units);
  • memory requirements (random access memory);
  • storage requirements (GB/TB);
  • power requirements (uninterruptible power supply );
  • efficiency (energy usage, cost);
  • costs;
  • configuration

Operating systems:

  • evaluation and installation;
  • benefits of different operating systems, e.g. Windows vs OSX (Apple Macintosh) vs Linux;
  • virtualisation and containerisation;
  • costs;
  • configuration;
  • compatability

System administration:

  • user administration and management:
    • user accounts, passwords and privileges;
  • networking and accessibility:
    • firewall set-up;
  • data backup:
    • integrity, automation,

Scripting:

  • language(s).

Database administration:

  • Structured Query Language (SQL);
  • application programming interfaces (APIs).

Documentation and maintenance:

  • SOPs.

Clinical Scientists in HSST will be able to identify potential opportunities for developing informatics solutions to clinical bioinformatics requirements and problems and be capable of leading such solutions. Achievement can be demonstrated through involvement in the following activities:

  • initiate, assist and oversee development of IT infrastructure for the purpose of integrating bioinformatics into clinical diagnostic work streams as part of a team.

The Clinical Scientist in HSST will critically reflect on their own abilities as they develop a range of scientific, technical, clinical and communication skills to enable them to work in partnership with colleagues making decisions with respect to the IT infrastructure supporting the bioinformatics function. In particular they should be able to: 

  • Critically evaluate the clinical and scientific computing hardware, software interoperability and integration problems that arise within the service and liaise with clinical staff, IT and informatics staff and system suppliers to effectively resolve these problems.
  • Analyse clinical data transfer processes currently in place or required for higher management and other agencies in health and social care, including the appropriate use of anonymisation tools where person identifiable health data are concerned.
  • Overview the clinical computer management activities that maintain the level of service provision, with particular reference to the need for adequate staff cover.