Vital health data partnership grows

PIONEER – the Health Data Research Hub for Acute Care – is pleased to announce University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) as a new strategic partner.

PIONEER is an ethically approved research partnership that collects and curates patient data from acute care across the health economy, including primary, secondary, social care, and ambulance service, to support research.

This critically important anonymised dataset and partnership provides valuable insights to enable innovative healthcare organisations develop, test and deliver advances in acute clinical care, with patient and public representatives at the heart of the work undertaken by PIONEER with robust processes in place to safeguard patient data.

Acute care is the provision of unplanned medical care; from out-of-hours primary care, ambulance assessment, emergency medicine, to surgery and intensive care. It is traditionally a difficult area to research, at scale, but also a national priority area for patient care.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for greater volumes of accurate and real-time patient data to support rapid learning and the investigation of new diagnostics and treatments for acute care became even more vital.

In one project, PIONEER is supporting clinicians to diagnose and assess the severity of COVID-19 using artificial intelligence and chest x-rays, using artificial intelligence to support frontline clinicians interpreting chest radiographs as a way to diagnose the illness and predict the likely outcomes for patients.

The addition of UCLH to the partnership will allow PIONEER to further scale its patient dataset and accelerate innovation within acute care to support the development of new insights which provide better care for the patients we serve.

In a further project within the partnership, researchers will gain insight from data on the microbial causes of infection and on antibiotic use. This vital work aims to improve antibiotic stewardship and help reduce antibiotic resistance, keeping the antibiotics we need for the future, working.

Researchers will use data according to international standards, which will pave the way for more partners in the future and enabling research nationally and internationally.

Chief Medical Officer at UHB Professor Simon Ball said: “This is a fantastic example of how two digitally mature NHS trusts can work together to drive improvements in the care we provide to our patients.

“It allows us to work to combine the strength of our NHS partnership with the strength of our supporting academic institutions. PIONEER offers a dataset which will enable effective, rapid innovation.

“With a greater and wider dataset, models, trends and advances can be sped up. This expanded partnership with UCLH will allow us to do just that at a time where the health service needs this most.”

Chief Innovation Officer at UHB, Tim Jones, said: “Demand for acute health services are at record levels. Traditional approaches to innovation will not meet the scale and speed that change will be required to meet this demand; yet despite this, there has been less innovation in acute care than in many other areas across all health services.

Professor Bryan Williams, UCLH Director of Research and front-line physician, said: “This partnership between major institutions in London and Birmingham builds on the legacy of our strong partnership working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Acute medical care is hugely valued by patients, and a key area of NHS activity, but has received too little research attention.

“We want to fix that and this partnership with our colleagues in Birmingham will transform our ability to gain rapid and novel insights, to further improve care and patient outcomes in acute medical settings across the NHS. It is also important that patients and the public are at the centre of this partnership, guiding our safe use of data, through our Data Trust Committee.”

Professor Elizabeth Sapey, Director of HDRUK PIONEER, and an acute medicine and respiratory consultant at UHB, said: “As a doctor working in a busy emergency admission unit, I have seen first-hand how health data in siloes is slowing our ability to transform healthcare for people, when they are suddenly unwell.

“This exciting partnership brings together the significant expertise of UCLH and UHB. Unlocking this combined health data and providing clear public oversight of how this data is used will lead to real patient benefits.”

In another project, health data from the earliest stages of an unplanned or emergency admission across both trusts will help develop new tools to identify those people most at risk of deteriorating health. It is hope that the strength of the partnership will further help people from communities underserved by research, seeing they are too included in the analysis, and so will benefit from the findings.

HDR UK PIONEER is linked to the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centres (BRC) at both Birmingham and UCLH and can therefore utilise the BRC infrastructure and experimental medicine approaches to enhance innovations to evolve acute care provision for the benefit of patients.

The NIHR BRCs are currently in a designation process, the outcome of which is expected in May 2022. The continued linking of infrastructure and capabilities across the partnership will provide a powerful vehicle to progress innovation in acute care.


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