Data science and digital health
Digital technologies – such as electronic health records, apps and wearable devices – have shown great promise in transforming the way we deliver healthcare. Such technologies are becoming increasingly present in the world of healthcare, bringing with them an explosion of data.
As a relatively new development in medicine, we must ensure that these technologies are used safely and effectively, and that they’re treated and evaluated with the same integrity as any other healthcare intervention. We also need to be able to link up and consolidate the increasingly complex data that these technologies bring, and turn them into useful information that can improve healthcare and inform policy, both locally and globally.
Our work seeks to address these issues, influencing digital health policy and practice across the globe while using data to make impactful discoveries about both individual people and whole populations.
Find out how our research is influencing the digital health sphere and using data to transform healthcare.
Highlights from our digital and data work
AI is rapidly diffusing across healthcare, bringing dramatic changes in disease diagnostics and management. Through our collaborative research group on applied artificial intelligence in healthcare, we’re exploring the increased use of AI in health and building rigorous standards for evidence reporting.
We’re also working with partners including DeepMind on the design and use of new AI technologies in healthcare, such as research we’re doing with the Cancer Research UK Imperial Centre to find out if AI could improve breast screening. And we’ve launched a new project aiming to enable AI for minority ethnic communities.
Cyber security in healthcare
With a growing reliance on technology, cyber-attacks against healthcare systems and hospitals have increased significantly, compromising the health information of millions. That’s why our team of experts is working closely with government, commercial companies and academics to influence practice on effective cyber security in healthcare.
In 2019 we published an in-depth impact analysis of the May 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack on the NHS, highlighting how cyber-attacks must be considered a patient safety issue, and a White Paper, 'Improving Cyber Security in the NHS', which makes recommendations to address vulnerabilities.
Listen, learn, improve
Patients’ feedback presents a valuable opportunity to make improvements in healthcare quality. Our researchers have developed a computer algorithm that rapidly processes and analyses this information, so that feedback can be promptly acted upon and resulting changes implemented into practice. This is the first of its kind in the English NHS and it’s now being trialled in new care settings.
We’ve also developed an online toolkit, Feedback First, which pulls together the evidence for more structured analysis of patient feedback data, helping to put a spotlight on critical issues raised by patients that need further review.
Improving understanding of mental health needs
We’ve partnered with the digital mental health charity, Mental Health Innovations, to generate new insights into the UK’s mental health landscape. We’re using machine learning and mathematics to learn from anonymised information generated by their 24/7 crisis text line, Shout.
The collaboration provides us with an important opportunity to assess the impact of Shout, and learn directly from those who are experiencing a period of mental distress. We’ll be using the evidence generated to influence innovation in mental health and build the next generation of digital tools and services that are rooted in people’s needs.