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The NHS Is Sitting on a $12 Billion Data Goldmine

Updated: Jul 25, 2019

Author: John Lauerman

→ Patient Infomation can help better tailor drugs, track disease

→One health record can be worth 5,000 pounds, EY report finds

England’s National Health Service is sitting on a virtual gold mine of patient records, according to a study.

The venerable agency’s medical data -- lifelong health records, blood tests, images, and family histories -- could be worth as much as 9.6 billion pounds ($12 billion) annually in benefits to U.K. patients, the NHS itself and the larger economy, analysts at the EY business consulting firm say in a new report.

Artificial intelligence, machine learning and other technologies are enabling detailed studies of patient information that weren’t dreamed of until a few years ago. Now, researchers, drugmakers and tech companies are clamoring for access to data to help streamline patient care, develop better products -- and even prevent serious disease.

“The value isn’t in the data itself,” said Pamela Spence, EY’s global health-science and wellness industry leader, who helped write the report. “It’s in the power of the analytics and the clever insights that can be generated from AI algorithms.”

The 71-year-old NHS offers free care to all residents, and officials are looking to the power of patient data to become more efficient and affordable amid increasing cost pressure. The service is collecting more data on genetics, disease patterns and other measures in an effort to minimize the most serious and costly cases of illness.

Predicting the Future

Big drugmakers are also interested in studying the system’s extensive files, which contain the lifelong medical histories of some 55 million people. The records show, for example, which types of patients do and don’t respond to specific drugs, offering a potential guide to the development and testing of improved medicines.

Health researchers are also using NHS data to better determine which patients with specific diseases need aggressive intervention, and when their conditions are likely to worsen. That can save money, and in some cases keep people healthy and working.

One of the keys to unlocking the NHS data’s value is harmonizing the various computer systems on which it is stored and connecting hospital and outpatient records, the report said. Companies such as Oxford-based Sensyne Health Plc are collecting data from NHS trusts to broker to drug companies, in an effort to realize financial value to return to the system.

The report included values for different types of patient records, depending on their level of detail. A typical electronic health record is worth about 100 pounds, while one that’s linked to detailed genomic data can fetch as much as 5,000 pounds, the report said.

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