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Using cloud-based computing technology to analyse data

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Matt Hennessey, Chief Intelligence and Analytics Officer, Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership and part of the Greater Manchester Digital Platform programme team, explains how exciting it is to be part of the team who are building and deploying the analytics as part of the GM Digital Platform.

"We're using special cloud-based computing technology that allows us to analyse data quicker than ever before and it comes with a built-in ‘turbo’ button for when we need to work on the really big or complex data sets. Using this technology have now been able to cut down the analysis time from days and hours to just a couple of seconds," says Matthew.

Electricity is pretty amazing when you think about it…it doesn’t matter where in the country it was generated or even how it was generated – by nuclear or coal power plants, solar panels, wind or wave power – you can just plug in yourTV, phone, kettle, lamp or appliance wherever you are and be confident that you are getting the same steady 240v power you need.

Those of us working on the GM Digital Platform are trying to achieve the same thing with data. Being able to safely use health and care data from hospitals, GP surgeries and care homes and join it all up into a single care record that you or your caregivers can access and update wherever and whenever you need to is one of our overarching goals.

However, one of the problems that we face in trying to deliver this is how to manage the sheer amount of data out there. There are 2.8 million residents of Greater Manchester. The national prescribing database alone contains almost 1 billion records! We may be able to connect our data up together but how can we ensure that we can find the information that we actually need quickly.

Imagine if a doctor wants to locate information about the dosage of medicine that one single person has amongst all these billons of rows of data or else find the blood test results of all the people who had recently tested positive for coronavirus in order to help develop a vaccine.

Our databases are now so big that it can sometimes take hours for our search software to find and analyse the things we need. This is why the GM Digital Platform has been created with the latest analytical technology built in. Being able to search and analyse data from right across Greater Manchester in record time is something we hope to be doing later this year.

It’s really exciting to be part of the team who are building and deploying the analytics as part of the GM Digital Platform. It will use special cloud-based computing technology that allows us to analyse data quicker than ever before and it comes with a built-in ‘turbo’ button for when we need to work on the really big or complex datasets. Using this technology has now been able to cut down the analysis time from days and hours to just a couple of seconds.

Of course, the way this is done will honour all the national personal data security requirements. We have built the platform to ensure our systems keep the data safe, always focusing on keeping patient data secure and working only with the data that the patient or the law says we can work with.

What makes the electricity story so great is that the end user can choose for themselves whatever device or appliance (such as a phone) they want to use and then choose how and when they use it. In my role, I want to see the same happen with analytics. If we put technical barriers in the way of connecting to the data, like forcing people to use a particular analytical software or tool, or making it impossible to connect what they really want to use, then we simply reduce the value of obtaining the data in the first place because it won’t get used at all. The digital platform will work with whatever analytical software or tool is needed to do the job

The new data analytics system that is part of the GM Digital Platform will help people to get the best value out of the data that we have. It can help patients and their healthcare workers instantly find the information that they need; produce dashboards with rich information for clinical use which will help each service fully understand the care they provide and how they can improve; and by using advanced research and data science techniques we can begin to better predict a person’s health journey – from when they might begin to need more support, to what treatment will work best and the quickest way to get that support to them. 

 

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