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BCS report calls for development of ‘clinical satnav’


Mark Say Managing Editor

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A ‘clinical satnav’ for doctors could provide valuable guidance in ordering tests, evaluating results and possible diagnoses, and producing options for patient care and treatments, according to a new report.

Titled Building a Clinical Satnav for Practitioners and Patients and published by BCS – The Chartered Institute for IT, it calls for the acceleration and increased collaboration between relevant development programmes.

It argues that a connected system of computable knowledge would take years off the time between research findings being published in journals to when they get adopted into clinical practice, and highlights areas where it would help to reduce errors and improve the quality of care.

One example of this is in lowering the use of antibiotics by better application of antibiotic guidelines.

Initiatives in the field are underway by NHS England, Health Education England, NHS Scotland and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, but the report outlines challenges – technical, cultural, institutional, financial and strategic – for shifting research and healthcare systems into creating and using computable knowledge.

Invest in infrastructure

Dr Philip Scott, chair of BCS Health and Care which commissioned the report, said: “Tech is vital to the NHS so we need to invest in the infrastructure and new ways of working for computable knowledge to be used to its full capacity.

“Computer driven, healthcare decision support already exists to a limited extent, but we must catch up with other fields.

“In banking, shopping and travel, computational support for personal and expert decision making is commonplace and often seamless. Peoples’ needs are understood so intimately that there’s little difficulty recommending suitable films, food and holidays for them.

“Britain is a leader in health research, with a growing community of digital health experts who are proud to belong to a vital and dynamic profession. The great opportunity now is for clinical research to produce computable knowledge that can be used immediately in computer driven decision support, with the unique chance to transform patient outcomes and how doctors work.”

The report has been published weeks after the Goldacre review commissioned by the government, which made a range of recommendations on how the NHS can better use its health data for research.


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