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2020 NIHR ACF PES QMUL Platform Science and Bioinformatics



2020 NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowship in Priority Research Themes

HEE Local Office: North Central and East London
Medical School: Queen Mary University of London
Research Theme: Platform Science and Bioinformatics
Specialty Options: Cardiology

Plain English Summary

Each interaction between a patient and the healthcare system generates a large volume of patient data. At the moment doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals use only a small fraction of this patient data in their decision making.

A number of factors underpin the gap between health information availability and use. These include the complexity and lack of structure in the data, computer systems which are not integrated, and a lack of the skills and tools needed to make sense of the data.

The amount of data available about each patient will increase exponentially over the next several years, driven by a progressive switch to electronic records in hospitals, more frequent use of advanced tests such as CT and MRI scans, and the growing popularity of devices that capture health-related data, such as smartphones, smart watches and wearable devices.

We believe that better utilisation of existing healthcare data has the potential to improve the ways in which we diagnose, treat and prevent disease. The aim of this programme is to integrate and analyse healthcare data in different forms and from different sources with the goal of better understanding the factors that determine health and disease. We will use this understanding to enable earlier, faster and more accurate diagnosis and to facilitate personalised treatment based on the assessment of each individual’s characteristics.

Our programme relies on a number of large datasets already in use by our institutions. Barts BioResource is a registry of patients undergoing treatment at Barts Heart Centre that have agreed to allow their healthcare data, including clinical records, test results and samples collected during operations, to be used for research purposes. UK Biobank is a national study of healthy volunteers who have provided detailed health information and undergone investigations including blood tests, MRI scans and genetic studies.

This research will build on our existing expertise in working with big data and in using advanced analytical techniques, such as machine learning, to gain medical insight from complex datasets. We will develop statistical models to predict diagnoses, response to treatment and future outcomes, and will use these to create tools useful to healthcare professionals in their interactions with patients.

Patients and the public are at the heart of Barts BioResource and UK Biobank. Both studies were developed with extensive participant input and were established to help improve the health of future generations. Explicit consent and voluntary sharing of information are the key principles that underpin participant and public confidence in initiatives such as this study.

We aim to share the results of our research through publications in academic journals and presentations at scientific conferences. We will work with institutional and stakeholder press offices to maximise the dissemination of important research findings in the media. We will continue our existing public engagement programme including the “Let’s Talk Hearts” seminars and our annual science festival for school children.

Ultimately, we hope to use insights from large datasets to improve health outcomes, as measured by clinical, patient-centred and health economic measures.