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Big Data in healthcare -“Leeds”ing the way

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The last decade and a half have seen huge advances in the amount of data people generate and collect, across basically everything we do, as well as our ability to use technology to analyse and understand it.

This ‘Big Data’ is helping businesses in every sector to become more effective and productive. 

So, Big Data is big business these days. And it offers massive opportunities, particularly in healthcare. Big Data in healthcare is being used to cure diseases, predict epidemics, diagnose medical ailments, improve quality of life and prevent unnecessary death. As we amass more information about people, types and methods of treatment are rapidly changing, with the decisions behind these changes being driven by data.

And Leeds is at the heart of the action. The Leeds City Region is helping to lead the way in Big Data innovation. Big Data analytics is revolutionising the Leeds healthcare system, which, with its network of health organisations, research societies and excellent universities, already has a unique healthcare and wellbeing infrastructure.

How Big Data is changing healthcare

Collecting such a variety of information on people - including everything from unique genetic make-up, medical records, lifestyle and environmental data, to wearable sensors and even social media use - builds up a comprehensive picture of a patient as an individual. This allows a totally tailored healthcare package to be devised specifically for that person. This kind of personalised medicine can then through analytics be compared to thousands of other people’s, to help highlight particular threats and issues, by identifying patterns which emerge through comparison. This not only enables sophisticated predictive modelling to take place, so doctors can forecast illness and determine the best treatment. This kind of access to huge – and growing – databases of information about the general public’s health and wellbeing, which will allow problems to be spotted before they happen, and remedies prepared in advance.

While Big Data can help on a micro level, it can also be used on a macro level, in the fight against the spread of epidemics. For example, in Africa, mobile phone location data is proving highly valuable in efforts to track population movements, which helps predict the spread of Ebola. This information can then be used to identify the best places for treatment centres and where population movements may need to be restricted.

Leeds and tech

Leeds has long been recognised as a leader in both health and tech innovation, with 22% of the total digital health jobs across England and Wales located in the city. Leeds has a thriving tech community that has really come into its own over the last ten or so years.

Take the Leeds Digital Festival, which was first launched in 2016 and is now the biggest digital festival in the North. As part of it, Clarion is delighted to be hosting a very special, one-off - and now sold out! - event on the growing importance of health data in the region. To bring this topic to life, we’re lucky enough to be welcoming four of the leading authorities on this topic in the Yorkshire and Humber area. From the public sector, we’ll be joined by Richard Irvine, Head of Data at NHS Digital. And from the private sector, our speakers include Bryn Sage, CEO of InHealthcare, Giles Hodgson, Business Development Director at Steeper, and Director of Research and Development at Clinova, Arsalan Karim.

Leeds and healthcare

Leeds has regularly been at the forefront of Britain’s healthcare initiatives over the last 300 or so years. These include everything from ground-breaking work on sanitation in 1833, through to the first arm and hand transplants in 2013 and the world’s first hip replacement and kidney dialysis. Leeds has not only been home to these medical accomplishments, but also to many celebrated surgeons, such as Sir Thomas Clifford Allbutt, who invented the modern thermometer, as well as to successful pharmaceutical businesses.

In 2014, NHS Digital transferred an amazing 40 terabytes of data from their previous system to the National Spine, bringing together billions of patient records, all in one place and creating the largest healthcare data platform in the world. Leeds is also home to four out of five NHS headquarters, including NHS Digital, NHS England, NHS Digital, Health Education England and the NHS Leadership Academy, along with internationally renowned companies like EMIS and TPP. Leeds Teaching Hospital is one of the biggest NHS Trusts in the country, treating 1.5 million people every year whilst also leading the way in clinical research.

As you can see, Leeds is at the forefront of Britain’s smart health initiatives, in part due to its development of integrated approaches to health and care services, and, in fact, was the UK’s first health innovation hub. Local Government, the NHS, clinical commissioning groups, universities and the private sector all work together to ensure our region’s citizens experience high quality, seamless care that covers all aspects of the health and social care spectrum. Across both public and private sectors, Leeds City Region is leading research, delivery and manufacturing of medical devices, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. The region is home to a wide-range of firms driving growth in fields from surgical equipment to medical robots.

Clarion, in working with organisations across the entire healthcare landscape, notes that as the tech industry has grown and embraced the healthcare area, the key challenge has become the need for skilled digital professionals to bridge the skills gap. It’s not just a local problem, but an international one that the whole industry is facing and it’s only going to get worse. According to research by Korn Ferry, there will be 3 million digital jobs left unfilled by 2030 and it could cost the UK £141 billion in GDP growth. How Leeds resolves this issue could help cement our role at the centre of the healthcare data industry.

If you're interested in the healthcare sector or the tech industry and would like to hear more, please contact our Business Development Director Steve Crow.

 

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