Bettina Fitt, UK General Manager GE Healthcare – who was a member of the External Advisory group that consulted on the plans
UK Prime Minister David Cameron this week announced that the National Health Service (NHS) should be “opened up” to private healthcare firms under plans which include sharing anonymous patient data.
One aim is to allow private companies to access anonymized NHS data to boost research efforts and is part of Cameron’s desire for the health service to increase growth and productivity by working closely with industry players.
Bettina Fitt, UK General Manager GE Healthcare – who was a member of the External Advisory group that consulted on the plans – comments: “This is about driving innovation and adoption of new technologies and treatments throughout the NHS for the benefit of the patient whilst simultaneously encouraging closer working relations with industry.
This sort of collaboration is critical to ensuring that the UK remains competitive in a challenging global economy. Working together more effectively can mean quicker access to the right technology and treatments for clinicians and patients.
Of course we are very mindful of concerns around privacy and data protection and GE Healthcare has a strong policy, process and security controls in place to ensure that the privacy and confidentiality of individuals are maintained and it adheres to global data protection laws.”
With the introduction of Health Information Technology clinical data are increasingly being stored electronically. Members of GE Healthcare’s Medical Quality Improvement Consortium (MQIC), established in 2003, agree to contribute de-identified clinical data, which creates a powerful resource for research, quality measurement and improvement. Currently there are 25,000 providers contributing data to the rapidly growing MQIC database.
How and why might the data be used?
A recent example of the effectiveness of this data is a study which aimed to address conflicting reports into the impact of widely prescribed cholesterol-reducing statins on cancer development. GE Healthcare was able to draw upon more than 11 million electronic clinical records which were analyzed after being collected from MQIC members. The results published in July 2011 in Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) found the incidence of cancer in statin patients studied was 11.37% versus 11.11% in matched, non-statin patients – a difference deemed not statistically significant.
As participation in the Medical Quality Improvement Consortium (MQIC) and numbers of records in the ‘GE Centricity EMR’ database continues to grow, researchers will be able to harness the power of statistical analysis to help answer more public health questions with greater and greater accuracy.
Bettina continues: “This kind of data sharing has very clear benefits for patients and healthcare systems around the world and stakeholders must continue to collaborate to realise the full potential of secondary uses of electronic medical record data. We welcome this initiative from the UK government but it is imperative that safeguards are in place to ensure that patient privacy is maintained and all personal data is protected.
The range of measures announced by David Cameron designed to boost Britain's pharmaceutical industry, encourage medical breakthroughs and give patients faster access to life-saving drugs included a push towards nationwide ‘telehealth’ whereby vital health checks could be carried out and sent electronically to GPs without the need for the patient to make an appointment or visit a clinic.
There are countless examples of the potential for healthcare providers, government and industry to work together to benefit patients” says Bettina. “We are looking forward to supporting the government’s aim of delivering telehealth technology across the country to improve the lives of three million patients with chronic illnesses over the next five years”.