UK would be ‘losing out’ if citizens don't allow NHS to share information for

By Sooraj Shah
03 Jul 2014 View Comments

The UK would be "losing out" if its citizens didn't allow the NHS to share their data for the programme, according to Matt Hatton, managing director of Machina Research.

Hatton was speaking on Computing's web seminar today, which focused on the Internet of Things. Hatton had mentioned that the healthcare sector could potentially tap into a huge range of data sources, if certain devices were internet-enabled, and that this would in turn benefit patients.

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This led Hatton to respond to a question on the controversial programme, which has been delayed several times because of protests from doctors, privacy campaigners and patients who argue that patient data could be re-identifiable and could be shared with commercial companies who would then use it for purposes that patients might find unacceptable.

The Department of Health (DoH) recently acknowledged the outcry from protestors in a consultation document about safer sharing of patient information.

It said that many people were unhappy about information being passed "even in a form where the risk of re-identification of individuals is remote - to insurance companies or commercial bodies that might seek to use it for purposes that many would find unacceptable".

But Hatton believes that as long as the NHS is transparent about how it will share data, it would be of great benefit to the general public.

"It is an incredibly big data set, which can help to eliminate diseases or create new medicines, but you have to allay fears and be transparent about it. If you let people know what's being done with the data, how it is being used, ensure that there is no way the data can be tied back to an individual, and make sure it's not used for other purposes, then it would be a shame not to use that data," he said.

Earlier in the web seminar, Dell Software Group's solutions engineer, Dominic Wild, explained that the amount of data available from internet-enabled devices may be more beneficial for consumers, and the manufacturers of those devices, than enterprises.

"With Nike Fuelbands or using MP3 players that track your steps or activity, the data is shared onto social channels and with the manufacturer or application provider who use it to look at trends. They feed back that information to the consumer by perhaps putting you in touch with someone else who runs the same route, or perhaps it could suggest a different route that has better air quality with less pollen, for example," he said.

But Hatton believes that the Internet of Things (IoT) isn't just restricted to devices like smartwatches and smart fridges, but could also be put to other business processes.

"I think there are huge ways for businesses to make efficiency savings because a process could be automated so you don't have to send out someone to do something anymore," he said.

"IoT technology is potentially disruptive in every line of business you can imagine, so if you're thinking solely about consumer electronics and how employees are using them, you're thinking about it in the wrong way, it will change the way people do business," he added.

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