11 Apr 2022
by Alex Eavis

No turning back now: how cross sector collaboration can actually make us healthier

Alex Eavis, Chief Product Officer at EMIS, Digital, Data & Analytics, Pharmacy, considers the incredible advances that could be achieved through multidisciplinary collaboration.

The Covid pandemic brought to the fore the incredible advances that could be achieved through multidisciplinary collaboration. Health and care providers, academia, the life science sector, and system suppliers came together to tackle something previously unseen in our lifetimes. These collaborations enabled the NHS to identify and protect the vulnerable, conduct real time disease surveillance and epidemiology, and even to rapidly recruit patients for vaccine studies.

Building on these strong foundations, these collaborations can only go from strength to strength to drive data and digital innovation that delivers the triple bottom line of: better care, improved patient outcomes and greater healthcare system efficiency.

Research on the frontline

"Embedding clinical research at the heart of patient care across the NHS, making participation as easy as possible and ensuring all health and care staff feel empowered to support research" - Saving and Improving Lives: The Future of UK Clinical Research Delivery. 

Lack of time and onerous workload is often cited as a barrier for clinicians to participate in research, so at EMIS we developed a minimal click patient recruitment process embedded into our clinical system. Mapping study inclusion and exclusion criteria to primary care coding and practice, and automating searches in our analytics platform, practices can now use our Recruit tool to identify patients and invite them to participate by SMS or email.

It’s only the first step in automating a complex research journey, but one that we hope will mean more busy GPs are able to participate in research. Which in turn means getting innovative, life improving treatments to patients quicker.  

Data Driven Innovation

"Deliver innovations for the major diseases, with predictive and monitoring technologies and data used to prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat disease early" - A Vision for Life Sciences.

Working with NHS England and Ben Goldacre’s OpenSafely team to deliver a Trusted Research Environment that covers nearly the whole population in England showed the potential of secure analysis of anonymised patient records at scale without duplicating a single patient record; bringing the analytics to the data at source, and addressing major risks and privacy concerns.

The wealth of data embedded in the primary care record offers the opportunity to help identify patients at risk, aid early diagnoses and find patients suitable for new interventions - be they pharmacological or digital. At EMIS, we are now working on a product that enables anything from a simple search to complex AI to run on data securely housed in our analytics platform to identify patient cohorts. Then make those actionable to different clinician groups; or even to send insights or behavioural prompts to the patients themselves.

It’s early days, but we see this is the first step in redesigning what the NHS Long Term Plan refers to as: “care pathways across organisational boundaries to give patients the right care in the most appropriate setting".

What's next?

So, to turn on the turbo boosters and get us to Health 3.0, what needs to happen?

EMIS has now made it one of its priorities to “work in partnership with the research and life sciences sector to generate data driven insights which accelerate the research, development and delivery of more effective treatments for all.”

Providers need to feel comfortable to lend expertise and “make data …available to support clinical trials, real-world evidencing and the development of AI tools”, as set out in What Good Looks Like.

We hope to see life science companies continue on their digital journeys; investing in digital therapeutics, AI to aid early diagnosis or patient case finding, digital patient support programmes, and digital ways of getting treatments into the hands of clinicians - and patients - faster. 

The Government can help simplify the data governance landscape, invest in data infrastructure and normalisation, promote standards and good clinical coding practice.

Only together can we deliver the best return on investment for human health and longevity. As Charles Darwin famously said; "It is the long history of humankind…that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed".

Long may we and the collaboration continue.

Recognising the value of these important industry collaborations, techUK has recently formed a new Life Sciences workstream. If you are actively involved or interested in this collaborative work, please get in touch with [email protected].

Alex Lawrence

Alex Lawrence

Head of Health and Social Care, techUK

Robert Walker

Robert Walker

Programme Manager, Health and Social Care, techUK

Clara Hewitt

Clara Hewitt

Programme Manager, Health and Social Care, techUK

Tracy Modha

Team Assistant - Markets, techUK



Alex Eavis

Alex Eavis

Chief Product Officer, Digital, Data & Analytics, Pharmacy, EMIS Health