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Digitalising NHS data ‘would deliver £9.4bn economic benefit to UK’

Report claims data would lead to improved patient outcomes
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Unlocking the power of healthcare data would benefit patients and provide a boost to the UK economy, according to a report from EY.

The report, Realising the Value of Healthcare Data, provides a suggested framework for the NHS to ethically harness patient data.

It comes after the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) took steps to ensure technology companies meet a gold-standard set of principles to protect patient data in partnership with industry, academics and patient groups. 

The resulting code of conduct aims to assist the development of technologies that tackle some of the biggest issues in healthcare such as dementia, obesity and cancer. It will also help health and care providers choose safe, effective and secure technology to improve services.

The type of data required in this application is not individual patient records because they hold no trends, relationships or common denominators. Only the processed output, which is linked data-sets run over an extended length of time – making it anonymous – are of use in the advancement of medical research and improved patient care.

The report estimates curated NHS data could generate as much as £5bn per annum while delivering around £4.6bn of benefit to patients. This is through operational savings for the NHS, enhanced patient outcomes, personalised medicine and wider benefits to the UK economy from big data use.

Pamela Spence, EY partner and global health sciences and wellness industry leader, said it is critical that all analyses and innovations adhere with medical ethics and research regulations. 

“Patients must be informed and need to be confident in how their data is being used, and that their privacy and rights are safeguarded – in fact, we have seen data specialists taking considerable measures to ensure their infrastructure meets the gold-standard as set by DHCS and are willing to adopt best practice principles to protect patient data,” she added. “We believe that tapping into the potential of this huge anonymised data source for the advancement of healthcare, while creating a substantial income generator for an ever-stretched NHS, can be done ethically.”

Patient-level records will trace a complete story of a patient’s health, wellness, diagnosis, treatments, medical procedures and outcomes.