Big data is key to the future of the NHS, conference hears

Data from patients’ smartwatches and activity monitors will be shared and analysed as part of an NHS focus on prevention and wellbeing, a conference on ‘big data’ in healthcare heard.


Big data will give the NHS the evidence-base to make significant changes

Peter Knight, chief information and digital officer at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, told the Westminster Health Forum event in London that his trust was trying to focus on prevention and the wellbeing of patients and reduce the number of acute interventions.

But managing care in a very different way needs integrated datasets to provide the evidence-base for change, he said. Those datasets must cover social care and data generated by patients, such as from smartwatches.

‘Big data is key to the future of the NHS.’ he said. ‘It will give us the evidence-base to make significant changes. Data science is developing in the UK as a whole, and we need to seize the opportunity.’

Speaking to Frontline after the event, the CSP’s head of practice Steve Tolan said: ‘Big data is a great opportunity to complement published research.

‘It can provide opportunities for personalisation, but we have to ensure there are no stories without data – and no data without stories.’

The event also heard that 30-60 per cent of patients undergo NHS treatment which is ineffective, at enormous cost to the health service. Angela Douglas, clinical programme director of the North West Coast Genomic Medicine Centre said this was a result of traditional approaches in which all patients get a broad diagnosis and the same treatment.

‘But if we can apply a personalised approach, which is the premise of the 100,000 Genome Project, that is informed by genomics and other healthcare records, we can start to tailor the treatment for our patients and ensure that more of them have the most effective treatment the first time,’ said Professor Douglas.

The 100,000 Genome Project is sequencing the genomes from about 70,000 people. It is combining gemomic sequence data with medical records as a resource for the health service.

The project ends next October, but Professor Douglas said everything that it has learned will be become normal practice across NHS services.

‘What physiotherapy involvement in this area will look like remains to be seen,’ said Mr Tolan. ‘But physiotherapists should be thinking ahead about how they could engage with this.’

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