The data-driven NHS of the future

It’s common knowledge that data is valuable. But just how much?

Ernst & Young say that NHS data is worth almost £10bn a year in terms of improved patient outcomes and operational savings. But the value of health data will soon extend beyond these several billion pounds and reveal its true worth.

It’s a world that is actually within our grasp. And the key to it is making health data accessible to enable the use of emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Predictive Analytics.

Using such cutting-edge tech would enable accurate predictions on the extensive data we’ve captured over many years. Which in turn would catch these ailments in their early stages or even before symptoms start to manifest.

With the arrival of the Internet of Things (IoT), we won’t even be limited to the usual data collection methods. Through wearables and sensors, IoT collects, shares and acts on an impressive amount of alternative data that paints a clear picture of a patient’s health.

Data standards, such as the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) created by the Health Level Seven International (HL7) are already used extensively by NHS Digital and provide a consistent application interface for data. Standards such as these usher in a new era of digital ecosystems that are home to flows of abundant data, and make way for advancements such as Precision Public Health.

Empowered staff, virtual consultations, quick treatment, and on-the-spot diagnoses. These are the characteristics of the future NHS. By equipping staff members with tablets and phones, data-sharing can be streamlined, and patient care delivered more efficiently. Health data will accelerate the decision-making and diagnostic process, transforming our healthcare system from reactive to proactive.

Could this be true for the NHS and the UK? Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, certainly seems to think so – he is intent on making the NHS a world leader in AI and ML within 5 years.


Although database applications have played a major role in the NHS’ success to date, at present, these databases are no longer fit for purpose. Legacy IT systems both expose the NHS to potential cyber-attacks and hinder the development of efficient HealthTech.

It’s something that the healthcare system in Taiwan has identified as an opportunity and acted upon. From collecting data over a number of years via digital patient healthcare cards, they are now able to use AI at the point of diagnosis. Cancer screenings that previously would have taken a doctor weeks to do now take AI seconds, detecting tumours and even assisting in surgery decisions a lot more quickly and effectively.

Closer to home, there’s already a long-term plan to change the NHS into the healthcare of the future. Chapter five of this plan is to implement digitally-enabled care across the entire NHS.

The NHSX, created to drive digital transformation, also intends on delivering the Health Secretary’s Tech Vision with the help of the government, an initiative that plans on boosting AI and data to enable preventive healthcare.


The wider impacts of data-sharing on the NHS are not insubstantial – fewer security breaches and cutting costs are just the start. Increased use of data will bring improved end-user services due to faster booking and screening times, which was highlighted in the National Audit Office report from February 2019.

Owing to smarter use of data, the NHS will make the leap to not just simply survive but to thrive, propelling us into an age characterised by a vibrant health economy.

See the rest of this weeks' #CounciloftheFuture campaign week blogs here


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