Has the public sector taken on the big data challenge?

James Petter, Vice President and Country Manager for the UK and Ireland, EMC shares his thoughts on how the public sector is approaching the big data challenge. 

Big data is a term which has been thrown around in recent years, but essentially it is an evolving expression that describes any voluminous amount of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data that has the potential to be mined for information.

In my view, the real crux of whether something is big data or not is the ability to make decisions based on data insights, in real time. It’s the holy grail for most organisations – be they private or public sector – and could open the door to new revenue streams and stronger customer insights.

I was recently asked to give evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee as part of its inquiry into social media data and real time analytics. I believe there are already great examples of what can be done in government through better use of data, but the reality is that we’re only scratching the surface. And it’s not just something for consideration by central government. Local authorities could benefit significantly from projects already in place and through implementing schemes on the ground to improve citizen services, streamline processes, better understand their working environment and save costs in the process.

A year ago in his Autumn Statement to Parliament, the Chancellor recognised big data as an area that warrants additional research and development funds in order to strengthen the UK’s competitive advantage. However, little seems to have changed on the ground in recent months. So where are the biggest opportunities across all areas of the public sector?

There are some pockets of innovation and good practice across UK government already, with some departments beginning to explore how they might apply big data analytics, and the benefits this could bring. Notable progress is being made in the healthcare arena, and I am also aware that other departments like the Ministry of Justice, HMRC and the Ministry of Defence, are examining the potential. But, there is certainly plenty of scope to take things further and faster across the whole of government.

For local government on the frontline of citizen services, big data represents a huge opportunity. Particularly around understanding citizen priorities and how healthcare and benefit payments in particular could be better allocated.

So what can and should be done now? In my view, the government could do more to help create a market for big data analysis by using its own data sets more creatively to transform services to benefit citizens and taxpayers. Government should also do more to support innovation by pooling, sharing and linking public and external data sources, and encourage collaboration, knowledge and skill sharing within and across government, as well as external bodies.

Local government also has a role to play, particularly in ensuring its data is captured and stored in a secure and accessible way and that insights are being gleaned from this data in order to make decisions around citizen services and internal processes. Small steps to maximise data insights now will ensure that local authorities are better placed to sync up with big data developments as they roll out across the public sector in the years to come. Those who make steps to prepare themselves now will be far better placed to succeed in the coming months and years.

The public sector is in danger of being outpaced in terms of its ability to handle and exploit big data. Clear leadership and a willingness to adopt a culture of change are needed if big data is to achieve its great potential, and this is true across all areas of government, both at a central and local level. Technology is no longer simply a back-office function and big data is something which we all need to be prepared to adopt, or risk missing out on the positive financial, operational and citizen opportunities which it presents.

Conversation highlights – ‘Leading the Healthcare Technology Revolution’

Last week EMC and Reform hosted a summit on ’Sustaining Universal Healthcare: Making better use of Information’, discussing the future of healthcare in the UK and how to deal with the problems faced by the NHS. The summit marked the launch of a healthcare report by Volterra Partners and EMC, highlighting how data analytics and better use of information have the potential to save the NHS up to £66 billion per year.

It was great to see so many people getting involved in the discussion on Twitter using #NHSdatareform. Take a look at the Storify below to see the conversation highlights.

New report highlights at least £16.5bn of efficiencies to preserve the future of the NHS

Volterra report with EMC highlights the opportunity for predictive and preventative medicine to accelerate the Wellness Model

A new report – “Sustaining Universal Healthcare: Making Better Use of Information” – released this week by Volterra Partners and EMC has outlined how data analytics and better use of information can improve the efficiency of healthcare delivery in the UK by up to 60 per cent, with the potential to save the NHS between £16.5 billion and £66 billion per year. The NHS is currently facing a £34 billion funding gap by 2020 and radical action is needed to preserve its core values of “providing free healthcare for everyone”. An infographic has also been created to outline the key figures, click on the image below to take a look.

EMC-infographic-FINAL-FINAL (2)

The report exposes the gap between the NHS and other industries in its use of data analytics and technology, adding to the body of evidence that shows that the current patchwork efforts to maintain the NHS are unsustainable. The lack of electronic records, predictive analytics, collaboration and effective monitoring of patient and treatment outcomes, in addition to personalised care, is leading to failures and financial inefficiencies that are unsustainable in the long-term.

There are pockets of excellence across the UK where data analytics has been effectively employed to deliver better quality of care for patients. If these examples were implemented nationally this would result in savings of:

  • £840 million per year due to a reduction in A&E attendances
  • £200 million per year through reduced complications due to diabetes
  • £126 million per year through better care management for patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Up to £32 million per year through the reduction of readmission rates
  • £5 billion of savings in staff time through more efficient working practices

James Norman, Healthcare Director, UK & Ireland at EMC, said: “Transformation in healthcare is needed now. If we want to save the NHS we should be ambitious and bold. We need a more joined-up system in place to drive interoperability of patient records and to better use the valuable information insights we generate. Doing so would mean that we could more easily identify the combination of factors that would put a patient at risk of generating a chronic condition, opening up the opportunity to prescribe treatment before they become ill. Or, this could allow us to develop personalised medicines, improve early diagnoses and analyse specific treatments to maximise the benefit of medicine used. Increasing the accessibility and agility of data, improving mobility, ensuring we’re secure and compliant and offering flexibility and scalability while investing in the appropriate skills and learning from other industries, is crucial to preserving an icon of British society.”

The report also identifies a number of recommendations to enhance patient care, including:

  • Speeding up the accessibility of data and communicating the benefits to patients and GPs ahead of time to build trust and buy in
  • Collaboration at a local level with health institutions and academia
  • Investment in appropriate skills in the health workforce to handle and use data effectively
  • A change in culture within the Department of Health to drive a real shift to the Wellness Model, rather than just using data to improve performance management

View the full report here and join in the conversation on Twitter via #NHSdatareform.

Sustaining Universal Healthcare: Making better use of Information

James Petter, Senior Vice President & Managing Director, EMC, launches a new report with Volterra considering the future of healthcare in the UK

Every medical professional in the UK, to one degree or another, today faces the challenge of managing a growing patient population with a diminishing set of resources.

By the end of this decade it is predicted that the NHS will face a funding gap of £34 billion, only £5bn less than we spend on defence as a whole today. At EMC we feel passionately that a ‘Wellness Model’ as advocated by many of the NHS’ leaders today, is key to tackling this challenge. We wanted to investigate how a more joined up approach to using information insights could deliver this model, and its efficiency benefits, to the NHS.

Today we launched a report with Volterra, “Sustaining Universal Healthcare in the UK: Making better use of Information.” This report will add to the body of evidence that shows that the current patchwork efforts to maintain the NHS are unsustainable. It illustrates that more fundamental reforms are required to preserve the spirit of the NHS: universal healthcare for all, free at point of delivery, based on clinical need and not the ability to pay. With talks of a fresh ‘NHS tax’ after the General Election in 2015, discussions around “paid for” GP visits and more, the NHS’ founding principles are under serious threat today.

We have a window of opportunity to act on the recommendations in this report and build a new infrastructure for the 21st Century NHS; maintaining its founding principles but transforming the way it delivers patient care through innovation in the use of data. Significantly this isn’t just about saving money, but done correctly, the impact of this report will make for a healthier UK too. I hope you find the report and its findings as insightful and provoking as we did.

You can view the report in full here and join in the conversation on Twitter via #NHSdatareform.