In a recent article by TechCrunch, it was revealed that we currently generate centuries worth of data in just 2 days. That is a hell of a lot of data.  I am adding to this mass by writing this very blog.

We are living in a world where we generate and receive more information than at any other period in history. Our daily lives revolve around data, whether it be inputting a pin into a banking system or a password for an operating system or recording an account of an interaction with a patient to form part of an Electronic Health Record. You only have to look at what happened in New York during and post hurricane Sandy  to see how reliant we have become on information and technology. This reliance and increase in need of information technology is not going to go away, if anything it is likely to increase with more initiatives such as Telehealth. Over the past year, I have become increasingly convinced that simplifying the information output from this big data is not only desirable, but is also a future necessity for health care, business and generally – life.

Courtesy of Scott Carpenter

So with so much data being created and consumed, how can health and social care make sense of it and use it for best effect? I think the trick is to make it simple. I particularly would like to see more intuitive smart algorithms and dashboards replacing the heap of disconnected pieces of information we currently laboriously have to rely on when making decisions. I would also like to be able to see health and social care data integrated for geographic areas, populations and client groups. I can imagine some people rolling their eyes and muttering ‘impossible!’ at this audacious request. But I do believe that people who use services, clinicians and non-clinicians alike demand no less and should therefore strive to influence this direction of travel.  Our data will be more useful and meaningful by connecting and simplifying its output. We are already seeing this in areas like Derbyshire where health, social services, education and police are joining up their data for better knowledge with products such as ChildView.

Other industries like banking have long known this obvious fact. You only have to look at how Google is able to troll through masses of information to find a piece of information that you ask for at a click of a button to see that it is possible. Similarly small screens and the age of apps is forcing developers to create simple interfaces with stunning displays of interactive data.  These are examples outside of the health and social realm. In healthcare, we have trail blazers like PatientsLikeMe who have not only aggregated disparate  individual masses of clinical data for easier access and understanding of a range of illnesses and treatments, but involved the end user (patients) in their venture.

At the heart of every single technology and information development  are the people who deliver frontline services. The information and technology agenda like everything else, needs great leadership to connect to these hard working people to motivate, inspire and move them towards better use of technology and data. There is an emerging acknowledgement of a need to develop clinicians who can act as conduits between IT, management and the clinical workforce in order to develop and implement effective strategies for excellent quality care. A report released by the PWC in March this year  illustrates this growing area of  need. The CCIO role is well researched in their comprehensive ‘Needles in a Haystack‘ report. The Department of Health has also recently announced £140 million to develop the nursing workforce to meet this growing need.

Big data is like oil – a fuel to drive safety, efficiency, service improvement and innovation; but it needs mining, refining and channeling with due regard to confidentiality and safety issues. The human factor can not be understated.  Any organisation that is serious about harnessing the power of technology and data will have to invest in the right talent and skills for it’s workforce to deliver the vision of better healthcare through technology. I am hopeful that the growing need to improve and simplify health and social care data will lead to more intuitive, innovative and successful joined up solutions with CCIOs at the helm.