Can big data solve the NHS crisis?

Posted 2/2/2018 by Liam Pallett

Just this week, Jeremy Hunt acknowledged the NHS winter crisis as the “worst ever” so I thought it’d be topical to discuss how Big Data can be utilised in healthcare.

Since the NHS began in 1948, increased life expectancy and population has caused financial pressure, with the costs continuing to rise. Exacerbating the situation is an increase in the prevalence of chronic disease and of course the current flu season, which NHS England has described as the worst in years.

Other sectors are already adopting and taking advantage of the Big Data revolution, putting predictive analytics to good use. Retailers can create targeted advertising campaigns and utility suppliers can predict demand spikes, so in theory there is no reason as to why predictive analytics can’t be utilised to reduce waiting times, improve disease management and predict patient flows through the NHS.

NHS Scotland started to adopt electronic health records in 2011, which has increased the availability of digitised data in recent years, translating into substantial savings;

£32 million – Savings annually through the reduction of readmission rates.

£5 billion – Savings in staff time through more efficient working practices.

£840 million – Savings annually through a reduction in A&E attendances.

£200 million – Savings per year through reduced diabetes complications.

£126 million – Savings per year through better care management for 

COPD patients.

The above findings from NHS Scotland are a strong indicative of the improvements that big data analytics can bring, however, there are some barriers to big data usage. Not just in terms of recruiting people with the right skillset, but also the IT infrastructure for data storage and access. GDPR will also enforce new data regulations, coming into place during May 2018, meaning a stricter overall governance of the sharing of data, hampering the flow of data within the organisation.

The benefits are clear, and in the case of NHS Scotland they are proven. The NHS needs to embrace a more objective and data driven approach, and this will involve a leap of faith, a change of culture, and financial input.

Get in touch to find out more.


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