Computer scientists start second project to improve access to NHS patient database

Two Sussex academics have begun work on developing a system for assessing the quality of patient information held in a new NHS database.

trialviz TRIALVIZ’s stack and card interface showing the results of running a query to select diabetes patients.

trialviz2Visualisation of patient numbers for the above example on a map of the UK.

In April 2012, the government launched a “world-class e-health secure research service”, called the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD), to provide scientists with greater access to anonymised NHS patient data. 
Dr Rosemary Tate, a medical statistician and computer scientist in Informatics, and Dr Natalia Beloff, Senior Lecturer in Software Engineering, worked with Brighton-based company Dataline Software to develop a system, called TRIALVIZ, that allows users to extract real-time information from the database and to search based on a specified set of criteria. Prior to this, extracting such information was time-consuming and required considerable expertise.
The current application of this tool will help in the development of new medicines, by enabling users to select suitable patients for a clinical trial. But the flexible design means that many other healthcare applications are possible.
Now, in a second project, Dr Tate has been awarded a one-year Senior Research Fellowship to develop a mechanism for assessing – and improving – the quality of the data held within the CPRD.
Working with Dr Beloff, Dr Tate will develop a protocol and framework for measuring data quality, and will also create a software component for extracting data-quality statistics and constructing practice-based quality scores.
Dr Tate explains: “The idea is to have a national and comprehensive ‘cradle to grave’ database of health information, which will be a fantastic resource for scientists, making Britain a more attractive and productive place to do research.
“Since findings arising from patient data have potential public health and safety implications, it is of crucial importance that any data used for research is of high quality.”
For more information, go to the Environment and Health Research Theme web pages.