29/03/2018 10:35 BST | Updated 29/03/2018 10:35 BST

How Big Data Can Help Revolutionise The NHS

The interaction with data in our every day lives is evolving in such a way that regular experiences, such as online shopping, are highly personalised to our individual needs and preferences. It empowers us as consumers to get exactly what we want from a brand, when we want it. The benefits within healthcare are equally compelling and have the potential to radically improve the care we receive from the NHS. Data is fast becoming our lifeblood.

Yet with the average wait to see GPs and receive routine operations increasing, there is an ongoing debate about how the NHS could improve efficiencies. A recent study by a regulator, NHS Improvement, found that hospitals could carry out 280,000 more non-emergency operations a year by scheduling operating theatres better. Some argue that more money is required or that surgeons should simply work harder.

Most of us are in agreement that stretching NHS staff further isn’t the answer and could in fact be detrimental to patient wellbeing. But underfunding has reached crucial levels, so it is vital that efficiencies with technology make key differences in the long term. Many trusts and practices are embracing next generation communication and collaboration technologies such as video calling for remote care or smart IoT devices instead of elderly assisted living. While these technologies are making an obvious difference to patient care, the data they generate combined with historic hospital information will be the ultimate game changer in improving healthcare efficiency and patient care.

Analysing this untapped resource can help identify and address hospital bottlenecks at crucial stages. Data analytics will enable hospitals to visualise and compare data from various touch points across departments, eliminating silos and allowing for better triage of incoming patients and assignment of available beds. By understanding bed occupancy from a mobile dashboard in real time, surgeons can be more efficient at scheduling theatre operations and reduce waiting times.

Full patient records accessible anywhere during emergencies

Looking ahead, a single platform containing patient records gathered from various sources, including wearable and other IoT devices, will enable clinicians to quickly access a patient’s full medical history. This could include DNA code, fingerprints, facial and eye recognition, donor information, current prescriptions, family medical history, current ailments, and allergies. Imagine triage where doctors could immediately understand which patient requires most urgent treatment. In an ageing population with ever increasing bed usage, this would greatly increase efficiency. An unconscious patient carrying data history on a wearable device could be triaged appropriately and given the right treatment based on their DNA and medical history. Their family could be quickly informed via instant message and given access rights to the patient’s ward.

Population health management

By layering patient records with demographic and employment data, the sector can apply predictive analytics technology to foresee and mitigate population health crises such as diabetes. This improved level of patient understanding will enable hospitals to better target health education initiatives so patients can make lifestyle changes. Hospitals can also evaluate the performance of vaccination programmes to reduce health risks before they develop into conditions that require treatment.

Better data protection and staff resource allocation

Multifactor security systems using biometrics and data analytics instead of passwords and swipe cards will enable staff to easily and securely gain access to patient files, wards and theatres and reduce the risk of data theft.

An analytics based ID system will also allow doctors to locate staff around the hospital in real time, helping them to better respond to a major incident such as a terror attack. Doctors can use smart devices to reallocate the most appropriate staff immediately to patients based on their injuries and medical history. Clinicians will also be able to visualise data to identify patterns in wards where certain areas might be tended to less often, and recognise any links between attention levels and patient recovery and mortality. Changes to the ward layout and staffing schedules could make a significant difference to a patient’s wellbeing.

The UK is one the world’s most forward thinking digital economies and the healthcare system must not be excluded. The benefits of innovation in data analytics will not only help save lives but also deliver efficiency and cost savings to our National Health System in the long term.