NHS Director for Patients and Information Tim Kelsey has claimed that although the NHS has a history of failing to utilise data effectively, the care.data programme will change this for the better.
Speaking at last week’s THINK Cloud for Health event in London, Kelsey explained the frustrations with the health service that led him to his role within the NHS and his mission to improve the way it handles and uses data.
Kelsey told the story of an elderly gentleman who let his health decline because he found it impossible to book an appointment with his GP via the complicated telephone service.
This man’s life improved dramatically after he received assistance on how to use digital healthcare services – he was now able to book doctor’s appointments online and even email the surgery when he required it.
For the Director, this highlights just how essential both building digital services and then educating people on how to use them is within the health sector.
“This is not about infrastructure or the cloud, it’s about the outcome for real people in our real world, who are struggling in some very complex circumstances with their own health, their own lives, and that’s what we’re addressing,” he claimed.
Kelsey explained at the event how currently, the NHS does not collect information such as how many patients in the UK are receiving chemotherapy, highlighting a large example of where the NHS needs to improve.
He claims we have a “moral obligation” to use big data in healthcare and the care.data programme will allow NHS Trusts to utilise data in a way they never have before and greatly improve patient care, “filling in the gaps” where information is missing.
“Nobody has any doubt of the importance of better data supporting better clinical outcomes for patients,” Kelsey claimed.
“The really important priority is to just get that data to flow in ways that are of course, safe, absolutely prioritise confidentiality and care.data is an example of where we’re being very thoughtful indeed about how deliver the benefits of linking GP and hospital data together, but balancing that with important safeguards,” he added.
Kelsey also praised the NHS for the progress is it making on becoming a more open and transparent organisation with the launch of MyNHS, which he called “the world’s first really comprehensive comparative search engine for local service outcomes.”
“You can compare all kinds of data, from quality of food, safety in hospitals, GP practice outcomes, and public health outcomes for local communities in a way that just hasn’t been possible before,” he claimed.
“It’s an important first step towards the future which we want, which is a fully open and transparent service engaged in an evidence based conversation about quality across the piece,” he added.
Another key part of building an open health service is giving every citizen access to their own GP record, which Kelsey says will be available to everyone digitally from Spring.
He claims that no other country in the world offers such a comprehensive digital view of personal health like this.
“We think this will prove to be a kind of industrial moment,” claimed Kelsey.