Some areas of healthcare, such as DNA sequencing are at the ‘cutting edge of

technology’... other areas such as community care, there is some need of improvement

COVID-19 demonstrates the vital role of data in healthcare

Te public health emergency caused by the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) at the start of the year is changing everyone’s lives as we know it, but one of the many lessons we are learning is just how important data is as a tool in protecting public health. From monitoring the move-


with the Scottish Government, Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) and ScotlandIS, it focuses on a more distributed community-based model, combining technologies such as next-generation connec- tivity, the internet of things (IoT) and AI. “Tese solutions are avail-

able today and are supporting motivated individuals to make better-informed heath and lifestyle choices,” he said. “Tese will become more accessible, more personalised and as we under- stand the possibilities better, will become integrated into conven- tional health and care delivery models.” Te coronavirus has already

seen technology playing a bigger role in the health of individu- als and communities – whether that’s events held remotely to prevent the spread of viruses, or improved remote consultations by GPs to people who are at home

ment of patients, to helping understand the true number of those infected, data is pro- viding a number of real-world insights to public health officials around the world. Furthermore,

‘self-isolating’. Professor Crooks said artificial intelligence (AI) and technology had a large role to play. “Tis is not simply a futuris- tic ideal,” he said. “However, we need to look be-

yond what the technology can do and look at the existing concerns people have, which create barri- ers to adoption and scaling. “One key area is trust. For

people to be comfortable with concepts such as AI they have to understand what it can and cannot do and how it is proposed to be used, monitored and acted upon. Tis is why academics in Scotland are looking at ‘explain- able AI’ and ‘trustworthy AI’ as concepts that need to be factored into our thinking and actioned.” Digital Health & Care 2020

will be held on 23 September at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Edinburgh, after being post- poned from its April date due to coronavirus. Te conference will include ses-

sions on providing leadership in digital transformation, innovation and service design. Other topics will include ‘innovating with public health data’, the practical considerations in implement- ing AI and lessons which can be learned from designing health

strong epidemiologi- cal surveillance and the ability to re- motely analyse large datasets, can help researchers understand disease, especially a fast moving one, more ef- fectively. As scientists work around the clock to unearth a treatment, the ability to probe datasets and patient informa- tion is helping guide this work. Hopefully the outbreak will be

inconsistently and in a way that can’t be used productively. Fortunately, the Scottish

Government has recognised the need to use data more productively and have set up the National Digital Platform to de-clutter the landscape. Within the NHS, better data

Alison Culpan, Director, ABPI Scotland

supports better clinical decision making, it enables research- ers, both public and private, to work together to develop the medicines of the future and finally it allows the indus- try to monitor the safety and efficacy of medicines used in the NHS. Fundamentally,

all of this should be done with an eye on

privacy. We believe that data should only be shared securely and according to the highest standards of governance in order to protect patient confi- dentiality. In Scotland we have a net-

brought under control as soon as possible but it is clear that data is not just changing what we watch on TV or buy online, but how we respond to global public health emergencies. However, despite these clear

benefits and the political will to see Scotland utilise its data as- sets more productively, we are still some away from creating the type of data-driven health- care system that will improve patient care across the board, and not just in a pandemic. For example, if I told you that

a doctor in A&E is unable to ac- cess their patient’s GP records, you would be shocked, but that is sometimes the situation in our hospitals today. Too often data, and vital patient infor- mation, is siloed or gathered

work of safe havens with the potential to enable researchers, both public and private, access to secure and anonymised datasets. Te door to this data is secured through a variety of different mechanisms, but what it does demonstrate is that Scotland is already getting a lot of this right. Whilst safeguards vary depending on the dataset and research being conducted, it’s important to remember that there are always checks in place. Te last few weeks have

shown us what can be achieved by using healthcare data and once this crisis is over, we must recommit to an innovation ready NHS that can benefit everyone. l

Alison Culpan, Director, ABPI Scotland


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