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Data accessibility drives innovation; but where to start?

Blenheim Chalcot hosted an exclusive event in Manchester that brought together a collection of health technology leaders to discuss what the future of healthcare might look like.

The lively, fast-paced debate covered a number of themes ranging from the importance of data accessibility and how it can ignite innovation, to how current technology can be optimised to overcome the challenges of disparate, legacy data and systems.

Pioneer syndrome

The breakfast roundtable opened with a keynote speech by Rachel Dunscombe, CEO of the NHS Digital Academy, KLAS Arch collaborative UK lead and member of Matt Hancock’s Healthtech Advisory Board. Rachel started by redefining the thinking of imposter syndrome.

“We need to redefine the idea of imposter syndrome – and replace it with pioneer syndrome,” explained Rachel. “None of us have done this before. Not to feel something would be wrong, because it’s new space, but we’re all pioneers, and it’s fine to have pioneer syndrome.

“The situation we face is complex, so it’s OK to be daunted. There’s currently a lot of talk about AI and machine learning, but how the gap between traditional infrastructures, where data is, the historic underinvestment and where we need to be, is a big one.”

Personalised healthcare

Rachel went on to discuss how there’s a need to put the delivery of personalised healthcare first – with data usage at the heart of developments.

“The end goal is about us delivering care that’s appropriate for each individual. Care that is basically not wasteful to the system and is most impactful for individuals. It’s very interesting that the first five years of life are very pertinent to the rest of an individual’s healthcare journey. Yet, today, we quite often clear data away and don’t keep it for life – that’s data that we can learn from to predict outcomes later on in life. It’s personalised and it’s precise. Currently however, we’re very much treated by rote.”

“For healthcare systems to get their head around that, they must first get their head around redesigning services that have fluidity built in, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach. That requires a very different mindset.

Rachel continued: “We have been off track in the past because of that lack of systemic design. We haven’t considered health, social care, patient flow, specialist care and so on. We haven’t thought about how the data recorded in one system or one place could have an impact across the whole system. For instance, in Greater Manchester, anyone who is a patient is likely to be known by four organisations. How is the data that’s recorded in one organisation got the provenance it needs for the rest of the system?”

“Data has always been kept in bespoke formats. We’ve bought systems that store in bespoke formats, don’t store the provenance and don’t codify it in a way that can be used by different algorithms. Data is locked into systems.”