One of Britain’s pioneers of big data has raised concerns about NHS England’s use of data and its Care.data programme.
Clive Humby, now chief data scientist at Starcount, said the Care.data roll-out worries him and, while he admitted a national system has the power to do a huge amount of good, the NHS is risking it all because it has been so badly managed.
“Just because we can do things,” he said. “Doesn’t mean we should.”
Speaking at the Big Data Breakfast in London this morning, Humby warned about the consumer backlash that comes when big data isn’t used correctly and privacy is threatened.
This echoed the controversies surrounding the Care.data programme and its plans to expand the collection of patient care data from hospitals to include general practices.
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Humby said NHS England needs to understand the limits and the societal norms citizens are willing to accept. “You don’t have to just educate the technologist, but the society,” he added.
He also said that he had been part of a tongue-in-cheek debate a few years ago about who should run the health service, Tesco or the government. He explained that, while Tesco uses consumer data to improve the company, it only offered customers promotions that were right for them, so it was a “win-win" situation.
“The advantage of the grocery market is it is pretty safe, and everyone gets the deal,” he said. “If you manipulate the consumer too much, it could end up with backlash,” he said.