The Prime Minister’s advisor on science and technology warns the UK to embrace data and information led research immediately or risk the country falling behind in international standings. Dr Graham Spittle, who sits on PM David Cameron’s Council on Science and Technology and is CTO of IBM in Europe says information innovations such as those being led by CIO Stephen Docherty at South London and Maudsley Foundation Trust are critical to the UK for its health and the economy.
“Imagine a biologist without a microscope or an astronomer without a telescope, this is a new generation of tools,” Dr Spittle told information leaders at the launch of CTI, an innovation network to bring together clinicians, technologist and patients to combat mental health issues.
“This is the next generation of tooling. There is a tremendous need for the UK to act fast and it needs to get its act together in the next 12 to 18 months,” Spittle said. The CTO who is also chairman of the UK’s Technology Strategy Board, is pushing for the UK to harness its unique position of having a single healthcare body to embrace open standards, information sharing and social data to create information and opportunities to drive healthcare forward.
“Medical data will increase outside of the medical records environment,” he reminded the attendees to the launch of CTI, held at the Maudsley hospital in South London. “It is really really important that we find ways to harness and mine the data for the public good as the number one goal is better clinical outcomes.”
Spittle emphasised how important it is for the NHS and interest groups like the third sector to drive a new open attitude towards health information by juxtaposing health information with genetically modified foods where the issue has become associated with the Monsanto agri-chemical firm that as a chemicals giant represents the issue of genetic foods and massive profits.
“The big elephant in the room is consent.” he said of getting patients to buy into information sharing and not fall for Daily Mail fears of information privacy fears.
Spittle said the UK health informatics landscape is fragmented, but full of potential.
“Medical informatics has to be an interface between health expertise and data science. The real smarts come when you put people that have real knowledge together with those with strong information skills, that is where the alchemy happens,” the CTO of Big Blue said of marrying first hand domain expertise to data science.