Unleashing The Potential Of Data In Healthcare

The use of data in healthcare is a topic I’ve covered almost to death in the past few months.  Whilst the NHS continues to lag behind, a growing number of external bodies are championing the more effective use of data in healthcare, from the Richmond Group of medical charities to the Royal Society.

The latest voice to add to the cacophony comes via Future Care Capital, who have teamed up with the London School of Economics to draft a paper on the use of data in healthcare.

The power of data

As many of the other reports before it, the paper argues that data should be used more strategically to help provide better care, whilst also developing better treatments and supporting the application of machine learning based systems.  The paper provides a number of recommendations to improve matters:

  • Invest in skills and data driven business clusters – clusters have emerged in many areas, but the report advocates a concerted effort to build one around health data technologies and business models to help support the development of new businesses.  The clusters would also work to deliver skills training.
  • The creation of a data donor bank – it also believes that a trusted intermediary should be created to facilitate the donation of our health data to researchers and innovators.
  • Healthcare specific data regulations – whilst the UK will adopt the General Data Protection Regulations in 2018, the report advocates the creation of a dedicated healthcare data privacy shield.
  • Better policing – develop more robust sanctions to ensure the re-identification of data subjects from anonymized data does not occur.

“Bringing to the public a National Health and Care Data Donor Bank and allowing Artificial Intelligence capabilities to be developed and employed for public benefit and with transparent governance would mark a significant step forward for the UK, building on the past operations of the UK Biobank.  Planning carefully for the creation of data-based resources so that public trust can be maintained is of utmost importance, and this report suggests some creative and insightful ways forward,” the authors say.

It’s a nice contribution to what is going to be a crucial field in the coming years.  As I’ve advocated before however, it seems that the time has come for less talking and more doing.  It appears as though everyone in the industry appreciates the potential and the need to make this happen, but no one has yet taken up the reins and run with the task of delivering the changes required.

As the report correctly says, there is a real opportunity for the UK to become a leader around the world in this domain.  Time will tell whether that opportunity is taken.

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