The data demands on healthcare professionals are increasing by the day, and in a post-COVID world the only way to overcome backlogs is to work smarter. We talked to Graham Beales, Head of Business Intelligence at the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, to learn about the opportunities Snowflake brings to the NHS.
NHS Greater Manchester Integrated Care Board (ICB) was created to support the devolved care of nearly 3 million people across ten boroughs across Greater Manchester. By taking control of its own budgets and decision-making, NHS Greater Manchester ICB is able to provide a better standard of care, sharing data and insights with other authorities across the Greater Manchester region.
The organization has a collaborative analytics and data science platform that provides a shared understanding to all of its users. It delivers access to things like a live A&E dashboard, and strategic reports that feed into high-level decision-making across Greater Manchester.
“We have multiple organizations coming together, from local authorities and commissioning groups to GP practices and mental health providers,” said Graham Beales, Head of Business Intelligence at NHS Greater Manchester ICB. “We help these bodies to collaborate, improve, share best practices, and build new efficiencies.”
In recent years, however, an explosion in the requirements and demands for health data has placed pressure on NHS Greater Manchester ICB to maintain both its strategic focus and its operational readiness. The organization knew it needed to migrate from its on-premises infrastructure to ensure its partners received the most valuable information—and patients received the best care.
Making the move to the cloud
“The main challenges we faced were the speed that we had to produce our reports, the size of the data that we now have to work with, and how we connect that data to explore relationships and produce the output required for analysis,” said Beales. “Those things combined meant we needed to increase our processing power to deliver on expectations.”
Looking to add this processing power and conduct deep analytics and data science projects to uncover health inequalities, NHS Greater Manchester ICB was planning a migration to a competitive solution. But, having been introduced to the Snowflake Data Cloud at a conference several years prior, its benefits soon became apparent.
“The more we got the opportunity to work with Snowflake, the more we realised there would be less of a requirement for us to work with other warehouse technology,” said Beales. “We wanted to move as quickly as possible to replace our on-premises setup and realise the power of its processing.”
A vital engine room for improved care
Today, NHS Greater Manchester ICB’s analytics and data science platform combines modern technologies that work together to consume data from multiple sources and present it in a single user interface. Snowflake is the core that makes this possible, allowing the organization to move data around, build new data, and seamlessly present it to end-users.
The platform has allowed NHS Greater Manchester ICB to understand how it can work with huge amounts of data, quickly, and use that speed of delivery to support front-line operations with rapid reporting.
“With Snowflake, we’re able to rapidly process all our data, join it together, and understand the whole system in a way that we hadn’t done before,” says Beales.
No more compromises
NHS Greater Manchester ICB knows that data sharing is set to be a huge part of how the NHS will evolve, so the ability to share publicly available data on a single platform, or share its own data with other parts of the public sector, is an essential part of providing the best quality of care. The organisation is already using the Snowflake Data Cloud to share insights with other organizations, such as local authorities and voluntary-sector partners, who are often left behind in the tech space.
NHS Greater Manchester ICB has also found that the restrictions it previously encountered with data processing have been entirely eradicated.
“A really key part of the Snowflake journey has been understanding that we no longer have to make compromises with our data,” says Beales. “Before, we would have to crop a data set, so we might only have the last 5 years of data. But doing that loses some historical value. Having the power to compute as much data as we want means we can provide better insights that result in better care.”
A brighter future for Greater Manchester
As much as data-driven healthcare can pose challenges, it also presents some interesting opportunities, with step-changes in technology promising to transform the face of patient care.
“As we move forward on our informatics journey, the requirements are only going to increase,” said Beales. “We’ll never need less data than we do today. But we can now explore data science, machine learning, and AI to find new efficiencies and make sure patients are on the best pathways.”
This level of innovation is essential in a post-COVID environment, where huge backlogs remain in the healthcare system and care providers are overstretched.
“The only choice we have is to work smarter,” continued Beales. “And Snowflake allows us to do that. There are a lot of things that will become possible within the NHS in terms of how we support our patients. Accuracy, granularity, and speed are all paramount, and we are now in a position to really help consultants make better decisions.”
Ultimately, NHS Greater Manchester ICB has been able to change not just what it is capable of, but the way it works, too—the very culture of its organizations.
“Snowflake makes my life easier because it’s changed how we work,” Beales said. “It brings real day-to-day benefits and motivates our workforce to improve. We can connect data that we wouldn’t have been able to previously, and that’s given people a different idea of what’s possible. It’s a new era of opportunity.”