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The patient data explosion - and how to manage it

Information shapes our lives. It's the lifeblood of business, and the fingerprint left by every individual in the developed world. By 2020, about 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created every second, per person alive on our planet1. There will be over 6.1 billion smartphone users globally2, and more than 50 billion smart connected devices3, each collecting, analysing and sharing data.

This is both daunting and exciting. The information explosion is creating extraordinary new possibilities, but also incredibly complex challenges. And it has a raft of implications for the healthcare industry.

Our ageing population means more people are living longer - and often need to manage at least one long-term illness4. Together with higher birth rates4, this means our healthcare ecosystem is having to support ever greater numbers, while budgets dwindle and resources are stretched. So, as patient data volumes exponentially rise, much of it remains unstructured, unmanaged and compromised by legacy infrastructure, systems and processes.

As patient expectations and compliance demands increase, availability and accuracy of information is vital. Without it, clinicians are unable to diagnose and treat as quickly or effectively as they need to. So, how can all this data be properly managed? How can healthcare providers make the most of the invaluable insights it provides?

Improving care outcomes through innovative technology

By providing immediate, straightforward access to the right information at the right time, a considered data management strategy can harness the power of technology to improve healthcare outcomes and enrich patient and carer experiences alike. What's more, it reduces cost and eases the burden on resources.

Comprehensive, coherent ‘data trails’ chart the health of every individual in the NHS ecosystem, throughout their care lifecycle. So, clinicians, support staff and third party services can all understand at a glance what has happened in the past, and make informed decisions for the future. As a result, healthcare can be delivered with optimal efficiency and high standards, based on accurate, relevant insights.

Going forward, this integrated information can be aggregated for wider use, to highlight trends and help predict care needs for entire communities, regions, countries... and ultimately influence public health policy across the UK.

Leveraging this information using appropriate, innovative technology is good for everyone from trust boards and care professionals to commissioners and patients. But it goes beyond the four walls of the hospital too. Seamless data management is essential if the NHS is to meet ambitious objectives and policy demands like the Five Year Forward View, Do It Right First Time and Personalised Health & Care 2020. In short, it's key to its future wellbeing in creating a forward-thinking, 21st Century care environment.

Digital data management in action

The benefits of an integrated data management strategy are already well established. We can see effective solutions in action all over the world.

The Royal College of Physicians created National Early Warning Scores (NEWS) back in 2012 for patients with deteriorating health. Electronic records meant researchers could check trends in observed indicators and track which ones tended to lead to deterioration. Stored data meant theories about deterioration could be rigorously tested against thousands of real-life cases, developing statistically robust processes for calculating the chances that patients with particular patterns in their observations were likely to deteriorate.

When NEWS rolled out across Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth and University Hospital Coventry, reductions in crude mortality fell by 17.2% and 18.8% respectively in each hospital5.

Recording data electronically makes compliance far easier. For example, nurses can receive alerts if they unwittingly fall behind with their scheduled patient checks. Croydon University Hospital trialled this digital approach: it found observations were taken within 1.5 hours of the scheduled interval in 80% of cases, compared with 60% before the system was rolled out. Compliance with scheduled intervals rose from 45% to 80%6.

It's time to be data confident

The case for digital data management is clear. However, deploying the right data management strategy can be challenging in itself.

As enterprise data management specialists, Insource can help ensure you develop and deploy a robust strategy. We've spent more than 20 years creating state-of-the-art healthcare solutions, working in close partnership with specific Trusts for the benefit of the entire UK healthcare community. We can help you design and deploy user-friendly, robust data management strategies that meet your objectives while minimising risk and cost of ownership.

Our white paper 'Meeting challenges with change: managing today's NHS' takes a closer look at the issues facing today's healthcare providers, and how innovative technology - and specifically data management - can help alleviate them. We hope you enjoy it.

Download the white paper here.


  1. Source: whizpr.be/upload/medialab/21/company/Media_Presentation_2012_DigiUniverseFINAL1.pdf
  2. Source: https://techcrunch.com/2015/06/02/6-1b-smartphone-users-globally-by-2020-overtaking-basic-fixed-phone-subscriptions/#.brp6v1:RPIH
  3. Source: https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/internet-of-things/overview.html
  4. Source: https://www.myhealth.london.nhs.uk/help/nhs-today
  5. Source: Schmidt et al, 2014
  6. Source: Cooper et al, 2015