Open data could save the NHS hundreds of millions, says top UK scientist

Open data could save the NHS hundreds of millions, says top UK scientist


The UK government must open up and highlight the power of more basic data sets to improve patient care in the NHS and save hundreds of millions of pounds a year, Nigel Shadbolt, chairman of the Open Data Institute (ODI) has urged.

The UK government topped the first league table for open data (paywall) produced by the ODI last year but Shadbolt warns that ministers’ open data responsibilities have not yet been satisfied.

Basic data on prescription administration is now published on a monthly basis but Shadbolt said medical practitioners must be educated about the power of this data to change prescribing habits across the country.

Other data sets, such as trusts’ opening times, consultant lists and details of services, that are promised to make the NHS more accessible are not currently available in a form that is machine-readable.

“These basic sets of information about the processes, the people and places in the health system are all fragmented and fractured and many of them are not available as registers that you can go to,” Shadbolt said.

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“Whenever you talk about health data people think you must be talking about personal data and patient data and there are issues, obviously, of absolutely protecting privacy there. But there’s lots of data in the health service that is not about personal patient data at all that would be hugely useful to just have available as machine-readable data for apps to use.”

The artificial intelligence and open data expert said the next big area for open data improvement in the NHS is around prescriptions.

George Freeman, health minister, said: “Improving the use of data across the health service is vital in helping patients to make informed choices about their health and care, and allowing professionals to improve services.”

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