Open Access To Data Can Break Down Barriers And Empower Patients

Zahid Latif | Guardian Professional | March 17, 2014

Projects that use patient data collaboratively and develop new technologies are helping tackle the impending NHS crisis

Without a technological shift to a new care model based on the open use of data, public health and social services will struggle to keep up with the needs of those with long-term health conditions and the looming problem of our ageing population. Despite recent pledges to bring patient power to the NHS, the idea that public services can work smarter with patient data has actually been on the table for some time, with the latest changes to NHS data policy merely a recent topic in the debate.

Without an analysis of search trends or buying habits, private enterprise as we know it wouldn't exist: Google, Amazon or the world's largest supermarket chains couldn't predict what we want. This is a well-known example of empowerment through the use of big data, albeit a bit one-sided. Nevertheless, the old maxim 'knowledge is power' could not be more appropriate for our public service leaders today. We live in a time when sophisticated activity monitors can be downloaded to our smartphones and their operating systems can track our every moment. It is therefore remarkable that our personal health data can't be accessed in the same way, or that technology has not been adapted for the needs of older people, or those with diabetes, heart disease or other long-term illnesses.