Data is a powerful thing in a pandemic

Data is more important than ever to the NHS due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All resources will have to be used to effectively fight the coronavirus. From how the virus spreads, to how the health and care systems will respond and where they experience strain, information and data is needed.

The various departments in the NHS have already captured large amounts of data but streamlining the data and changing the way the information is used can be challenging. Lives can be lost if there are inconsistencies in data, so finding a centralized, fast and efficient way of storing and extracting data is crucial.

NHS England has been commissioned by the Government to execute an effective and coordinated Covid-19 response in the form of a data platform that will provide reliable, secure and timely data to national organisations who are responsible for coordinating response.

A single, secure location for data called initial store or backend, will be created by NHS England and Improvement to store data from multiple sources. Some of these sources will include NHS Digital, 111 online/call centre as well as Covid-19 test results from Public Health England.

The data will then be integrated and harmonized so that a single and reliable information hub will be created to support decision-making and help understand the current spread of the crisis and what capacity the healthcare system has to respond to it.

Decision makers will have more accurate visibility into the status of responses by the consolidation of information by partner organisations and the NHS.

Some of the metrics included are:

  • Real-time occupancy levels of hospitals divided into general beds and critical care beds
  • Current waiting times and current capacity of A&E departments
  • The length of stay for Covid-19 patients

With this information at hand, decision makers can make more accurate and time-saving decisions in response to the crisis. This will also lead to the better understanding of how the virus spreads and give time lines of the different phases of the virus and the impact is has on both patients and the healthcare system. Interventions can then be implemented in response to the information received.

Using the data dashboards, decision-makers will be able to do the following:

  • Increase health and care in emerging hot spots
  • Identify risks to vulnerable populations and understand how the virus is spreading locally
  • Ensure facilities with the greatest need will be supplied critical equipment
  • Based on resources, demand and staffing capacity, patients can be diverted to other facilities who are able to care for them more effectively

Confidentiality is of the utmost importance, so governance procedures will be transparent every step of the way following rules and regulations that they use daily. The data will also remain under NHS England, NHSX and NHS improvement to ensure maximum security of the sensitive data.

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