Category: Health policy

Healthcare cybersecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic: a threat too important to forget

By Saira Ghafur, Guy Martin, Niki O’Brien, Ivor Williams, Kelsey Flott and Ara Darzi, Institute of Global Health Innovation

As the global healthcare community has been consumed with managing the COVID-19 pandemic, a wave of cyber-attacks against healthcare organisations has emerged. Cybercriminals and hackers are upping the ante in creating more havoc and exploiting the fear and confusion that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it. The threat is global: Interpol even issued a warning signalling the need for healthcare organisations to be vigilant and aware of the heightened risk of cyber-attacks.

How we’re using data to improve healthcare

‘Big Data’ has become a bit of a buzzword. But for us at the Big Data and Analytical Unit, it’s our bread and butter.

The Big Data and Analytical Unit (BDAU) is the health data hub in IGHI’s Centre for Health Policy. We’re a multidisciplinary team that collaborates with clinicians, academics and data scientists across the College (and beyond!) to support improvements in health through better use of data. But what exactly does that mean?

Here’s a typical day for the BDAU to show you what that looks like in practice.

A simple piece of paper to help make taking medicines safer

Taking medicines is the most common way that we attempt to stave off or treat illness. Every day people all across the world use medicines to help improve their health and wellbeing. They’ve transformed the treatment and outlook for many diseases, helping people live longer and healthier lives. Yet medicines are also a major risk to patients’ safety. And this risk is not only a result of drugs’ side effects.

Mistakes in the treatment process can also lead to patient harm. Errors can happen at any stage of the pathway; when professionals prescribe, dispense and administer drugs. In England alone, it’s estimated that over 230 million such errors occur every year, causing hundreds of deaths and contributing to thousands more.

NHS data is valuable – how can it ensure a fair return?

By Gianluca Fontana and Saira Ghafur, Centre for Health Policy

Our National Health Service owns some of the most comprehensive patient data sets across the globe. This makes these data a very valuable asset – not just as a springboard for improving health and care through learning from the data, but also in terms of the potential for financial return. It is critical that if the NHS shares this data with companies, in an appropriate and secure way, it also receives a fair share of this financial return.

These are arguments we make in a new article published in Lancet Digital Health.

What’s it like to…work in health policy?

By Gianluca Fontana, Senior Policy Fellow and Director of Operations, Centre for Health Policy, IGHI

In my first job out of university, I was a management consultant. That led me to work on glamorous and intellectually stimulating activities such as figuring out how to distribute fresh fish in a supermarket display to maximise sales. But I’ve always had a passion for healthcare. So through the years, I was able to get myself involved with much more interesting projects.

Sharing healthcare data for better and safer care

By Dr Ana Luisa Neves, General Practitioner and IGHI Research Fellow

The promise of healthcare data is staggering – and now, we have the information and tools to use it effectively that we’ve never had before.

Electronic health records can contribute to making life-altering changes in patient education and treatment. We’re increasingly realising their potential as a powerful resource for researchers and policymakers. Applying big data analytics in electronic health datasets can help us better understand patient needs. We can identify underserved or excluded groups and therefore contribute to delivering safer, better, and more patient-centred care.

However, much still needs to be done to increase the availability of healthcare data before these goals can be realised.

What’s it like to study our Masters in Patient Safety?

Patient safety has become an important topic at all levels of the health system.

That’s why we launched our MSc in Patient Safety. The course was designed specifically to help policy makers and healthcare professionals deliver safer care and health systems. Since launching our unique Masters programme in 2016, we’ve had many graduates go on to successfully apply their learning in their careers, championing patient safety in their everyday work.

We spoke to three Patient Safety students, Joshua Symons, William Gage and Jeni Mwebaze to find out what made them choose the course, what they learnt and how they hope it will help them in their profession.

Why sharing leadership in healthcare matters

By Dr Lisa Aufegger, Research Associate

Alongside the inherent challenges of the job itself, working in acute healthcare teams comes with another layer of complexity.

On a regular basis, staff will interact with highly specialised professionals from across different disciplines. This means that team members such as anaesthetists, nurses and surgeons need a high level of shared understanding, not only in relation to their main objective but their roles and responsibilities, too.

Shared leadership (SL) – where leadership working relationships are distributed and team members’ unique roles defined – has been proposed as a way to foster effective team performance in such situations.

Project SAPPHIRE: Making the most of precious health data

By Joshua Symons, Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation’s Big Data Analytical Unit

Patient data is precious. It’s a resource that many researchers and clinicians use to improve healthcare and therefore the lives of patients and health professionals. That’s why we want to make sure it’s used in a way that’s both effective and safe.

Why patient engagement matters

By Dr Lisa Aufegger, IGHI Research Associate

Patient engagement has become a key priority in today’s health and care systems. And some have argued it’s essential for the sustainability of the NHS.

Patient engagement (PE), the involvement of patients in their medical process, is not a new concept. It first appeared in the late 80s, when the US Food and Drug Administration brought together patients, government, industry, and academia to identify and remove barriers to successful HIV drug and treatment development. Since then, PE activities have blossomed across clinical and non-clinical areas, and generated meaningful insight into and impact on quality improvement in healthcare service and delivery.