Sssh! DataWell’s Clear-Cut Priority Is the Protection of Confidentiality

Michael Cape | Super North | March 17, 2016

Everywhere people are, be it out shopping in a supermarket or sitting at home online, they are adding information to their digital footprint – which feeds into what is known as Big Data and so enables them to be traced. The use of Big Data can be beneficial to society, particularly in terms of health – which is why Gary Leeming’s job as director of informatics for the Greater Manchester Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) is to source and use the digital health footprints of patients both their for own benefit and that of clinicians. Mr Leeming is currently heading a project known as DataWell that could turn out to be the holy grail of healthcare – namely the establishment of a software platform that enables the exchange of NHS patient record information electronically.

This in a sector where much communication is still done using the postal system, and often second-class – something which anyone who has waited for test results to be transmitted from the hospital to their GP will confirm. DataWell was launched on a premise that there are many NHS organisations involved in healthcare across Greater Manchester, and patients do not just attend one general practice or one hospital. The hospitals with specialist services need to be able to treat people from across the region and follow up the outcomes so they can learn what works and what does not.

Currently, NHS patients have separate records with different providers: GPs, local hospitals, community health centres and so on. The consequence is that no one within the NHS has an overall picture of a patient’s record, and this leads to safety issues in that no one has an overview of all the medications a patient is taking and their care is not joined up. Increased costs also are involved, due to duplication of data entries, the repeating of tests, and time being spent searching for information. Inevitably, this means that the patient has to retell their story each time they see a new doctor or nurse, and they have to wait for what can be quite a lengthy period while information is sent from one organisation to another...