Healthcare leaders agreed today that securing the public’s trust in the safety of their medical data and how it will be used to is vital to maximising the opportunities that technology has to offer in improving care.
Dame Una O’Brien, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health, hosted an exciting debate on how technology can be used most effectively to benefit patients at the NHS Health and Care Innovation Expo conference today, bringing together NHS England’s National Clinical Director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh with US Chief Technology Officer Susannah Fox, Care Quality Commission Chief Executive David Behan and Macmillan Chief Executive Lynda Smith.
The group agreed that information presents the health service with vast and diverse opportunities to dramatically improve outcomes for patients.
NHS England’s National Medical Director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh said: “The decision to publish surgeons’ individual outcome data was unpopular at the time but it was the right decision. It has encouraged surgeons to focus on their own results. It has also equipped patients with information that enables them to have meaningful conversations with their surgeons.”
US Chief Technology Officer Susannah Fox said: “I imagine data as a pipeline that we need to open up at every stage: for patients; for clinicians and for the population.
“Data can be a mirror and it can be a catalyst. It takes courage to look in the mirror and look at your data. On a personal level this could mean having the courage to look accurately at your weight or fitness. At population level it means asking ourselves: how well are we really doing?”
There was also strong consensus that gaining patients’ confidence in the NHS’s ability to protect confidential medical information and that it would only ever be used to directly improve patient care was key.
The group recognised the importance of clear communication and simple methods for patients to use to opt out of sharing their data if that’s what they decide they want to do.
Sir Bruce added: “Data helps us look at patterns and trends: what goes well, what could be changed.
“People need to be able to trust that we’re going to keep their data safe and that we would only share it for the right reasons, which is to improve care.”
David Behan, Chief Executive of the Care Quality Commission said: “We need to find a way of instilling a level of confidence in people in the data we hold and how that is going to be used.”
Macmillan Chief Executive Lynda Smith said: “We can’t underestimate the challenges but we also can’t overestimate the benefits that this will bring.”