Leveraging the strengths of “big data” to drive improvements in the treatment and management of chronic lung diseases

An enormous amount of data is generated through routine NHS encounters. Some of this routinely-collected heath data is de-identified and made available for research purposes in electronic form. The Respiratory Electronic Health Record group, led by Professor Jennifer Quint, has developed core expertise in the use of this type of data from various sources, including data collated by the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) as well as NHS Digital, to support its research into the UK’s most common respiratory diseases such as asthma and COPD.

The Respiratory EHR group at Imperial brings together people from different backgrounds including clinical medicine, epidemiology and medical statistics, mathematics and computing science, nursing, and the core biological sciences. The result is a multidisciplinary team that has both depth and breadth and the capacity to work on a broad spectrum of projects, spanning basic epidemiology, disease aetiology, safety and effectiveness of medications, investigation of patient pathways, risk factor analysis and prediction modelling, as well as qualitative research on patient–healthcare practitioners interactions and risk communication. Underpinning all of this work is a robust understanding of the strengths and limitations of using routinely-collected health data for research purposes, and in particular, awareness of diagnostic coding practices in clinical settings and how these might affect research outcomes.