The exponential growth of data in the world, from a few spots of datum to a deep, expansive ocean of 1s and 0s, shows no sign of slowing and is expected to shape the world in ways we are still trying to fathom – ChatGPT I’m looking at you and your brethren!
In the field of health and care, record level, linkable data has become ever more ubiquitous, with the tools and ability to store, manage and analyse the vast quantity of data being both readily available and affordable. Exploration of how to use this data to advance healthcare using artificial intelligence and machine learning in areas such as cancer screening, heart disease detection and many others, is rapidly advancing, as is its use for helping to target limited resources and proactive care at the population level.
The latter was the focus of the first session in the relaunched Essex Centre for Data Analytics (ecda) Be Part of the Equation (BPOTE) events. These sessions are designed to bring the analyst and data curious communities together to immerse in data theories, wade through insight concepts and float new ideas. This focussed session helped attendees dip a toe into the world of health and care datasets and the data platform solutions adopted by the three Essex Integrated Care Systems (ICS).
ICS’ have a requirement, alongside their mandated Population Health Management programmes, to implement a longitudinal health and care record for the population they serve. This dataset of line level records brings together an individual’s usage and activity at GP practices, hospitals, mental health services, adult social care and community services to provide insight on the pathways along which the local population access services. However, what has been known for a long time is that external factors to the provision of health and care services are some of the key drivers for access and health outcomes. This is the vision for the data platforms in the coming years, to include datasets on the social determinants of health such as housing, education, employment, the built and natural environment, to name a few.
The BPOTE event witnessed just shy of 100 people attend from across Essex partner organisations to hear about the national context for data platforms, along with the information governance required to ensure that patients and the public can be confident that their data is held and used in a legal, safe and privacy focussed manner. Attendees from the local district councils, fire service, police and health services also received a run through of each ICS data platforms; the status, data available, planned projects and how partners can request access.
Helen Green, Consultant in Public Health for the region, started the session by calming the often-perceived choppy waters of linked data, explaining the national picture with some great examples from across the country of using combined data. This was followed by Iain Gear, Information Governance Manager in the Mid and South Essex ICS, talking the group through the safeguards and processes in place to protect data whilst allowing the correct access and use with future to extend the organisations involved. The presentations then flowed around the county to each ICS explaining their implemented solution for a linked data platform.
The Director of Data and Business Intelligence, Stephen Gallagher in Mid and South Essex ICS described how their Athena system pulls all the health and care data together, links it and presents the insight through a series of intelligent dashboards for commissioners and practitioners to use. These are particularly insightful for the system’s stewardship programmes, areas of work focussed on health conditions and pathways of care.
Axym is the Suffolk and North East Essex ICS data platform. Lewis Spurgin, Population Health Management Analytics Manager, presented on how it provides access to the linked data for analysts, with a layer of data management in place to ensure security. Alongside the raw data, the Optum Reporting Suite of dashboards presents the linked data in an easily digestible format, supporting the move to a population health management approach across the system.
Delyth Ford, Senior Head of Population Health Management Delivery explained how linked data in the Hertfordshire and West Essex ICS is available via their newly commissioned platform. Del talked through the approach of incorporating a whole population outcomes framework and reminded of how the linked data can also be complemented with readily available aggregate data, to supercharge the insight that can be generated.
To round out the session, a practical example of using the platforms was presented to the group, with Alice Lown from Essex County Council’s Health and Care Analytics Team, demonstrating a dashboard, currently under construction, which brings together the new client level dataset of adult social care linked with health data. It was fascinating to see these two previously siloed datasets coming together to shine a light on potential new areas of focus, previously like two ships passing in the night, now as an armada to take on the fleet of wicked issues.
The session was hopefully the beginning of a longer-term conversation on how these new data platforms, collaboration across partners and expansion with wider societal datasets could support true system thinking and partnership working. Taking us from paddling in a shallow stream of information to linked data powering Hoover Dam sized turbines of insight for action.