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NHSX is set to publish a new data strategy which aims to build on the work undertaken by the NHS to provide treatments during the coronavirus pandemic.
The draft data strategy, due to be published this week ahead of public and stakeholder consultation, could benefit millions of patients, building on how data has been used to save lives during the pandemic.
The NHS has used data over the past 18 months, both to save lives and help ensure it could provide better care to people suffering from Covid-19 and other health issues.
It found that enabling frontline staff to share data for patient care in a secure way enabled ground-breaking clinical trials to be approved in record time. The NHS said this data sharing has also been used to provide new services to care for people in their own homes via remote digital monitoring, which avoids lengthy hospital stays.
The Recovery trial is one example of how data helped to accelerate the roll-out of new treatments during the pandemic. Martin Landray, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford and the clinical trials lead at Health Data Research UK, said: “Within 100 days, the Recovery trial found that a low-dose steroid treatment called dexamethasone reduced the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. It was the world’s first coronavirus treatment proven to save lives. Estimates are that it may have saved many hundreds of thousands of lives.
“Pre-Covid, it would have taken 100 days to even get permission to go ahead with the trial,” he said. “We cannot go back. It is a challenge, but one we have to take on, because the future of all of our care depends on robust knowledge on whether treatments work or do not work.”
The proposed strategy aims to allow people to view their medical records and provide them with a way to keep a track of their health information.
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Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock, said: “Data saves lives. We need to learn from the pandemic to improve the way our health and care system processes data, giving power to patients and enabling clinicians to use data in new ways to improve patient care and support research for innovative treatments.
“This pandemic has shown us just how many lives can be saved through effective use of data – we must do all we can to harness this potential and the changes brought about through this strategy will no doubt go on to save countless more lives in the future.”
Among the areas of technology being explored in the data strategy is the use of robotic process automation, which could potentially save the NHS more than half a million hours a year in staff time by 2025.
The data strategy also includes proposals to make the UK a leader in innovation-friendly regulation of AI technologies, developing unified standards for the efficacy and safety testing of AI algorithms. Trials being supported include those which aim to replace the need for two radiologists to review breast cancer scans by instead using one radiologist and the AI, making the process faster and more efficient.
During last week’s CogX Festival, Hancock announced the winners of the second wave of the NHS AI Lab’s AI in Health and Care Award. Projects include an algorithm from BeholdAI that can identify suspected lung cancer in chest X-rays, the Paige Prostate cancer detection tool to help pathologists identify cancers and their spread in digital images and a mental health chatbot app called Wysa.
Discussing the importance of the AI trials, Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX, said: “These trials are making the AI revolution a reality for patients. Thousands are already benefiting, from faster stroke treatment to ground-breaking home kidney testing.”