8 November 2018
Innovations across a range of technologies are driving the evolution of personalised medicine. PHG Foundation’s latest report – The Personalised Medicine Technology Landscape – reviews these advances as part of an evidence synthesis for the NHS in England.
Data is a common theme across many of the technologies covered in this report. Some technologies – from genome sequencing, mobile health, wearables, to medical imaging – can produce massive amounts of data. Others, including gene therapies, artificial intelligence, and 3D printing, are informed or driven by data.
The explosion in health data could be a significant enabler of the greater personalisation of medicine by providing more detailed information on patients or their disease. At the same time its effective utilisation presents a major challenge for the health system, which has never before had to contend with the high-speed production of large volumes of a wide variety of health data.
Data about our health has long been generated and recorded in some form, whether this is blood pressure readings, prescribed medications, doctors’ notes, or scans and medical images. As such, the need for better ways to store, view, secure, share and analyse health data is not new. Upgrading digital infrastructure and digitising heath records has been an ongoing ambition of the health system. However, as our report points out, developments in science and new technologies are placing even greater, and often new demands on the health system’s digital infrastructure, policies, and data skills.
The urgency to transform the digital and data capabilities of the NHS has come into sharp focus very recently with the publication of the Health Secretary’s technology vision The Future of Healthcare. The policy paper sets out the priorities and changes needed to unlock the potential of innovative technologies to support care. A number of these priorities chime with the key considerations raised in our report the Personalised Medicine Technology Landscape. This includes:
In addition to the Health Secretary’s technology vision, earlier in October came the announcement of the ambition to sequence five million genomes in the UK over the next five years. These initiatives are examples that highlight the broader desire for bigger, better datasets. This now needs to be supported, in parallel, with the commitment towards the underlying infrastructure, policies, and people that are essential for transforming these bigger datasets into better healthcare.