HIC In The News

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Healthcare revolution

"We are seeing the convergence of traditional health records, laboratory test results, imaging and genomics data, all being used to answer more and more complex questions regarding the determinants of health and effectiveness of treatments" says Jonathan Monk, director of IT at the University of Dundee. "When we combine this with advances in analytics, such as natural language processing, we will hopefully start to see changes in the way patients are treated, which should ultimately lead to better outcomes for everyone."

 

Collaborative approach

It seems significant, then, that at Dundee, security and research ethics is not solely an issue for the university’s Health Informatics Centre (HIC) but requires a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach.

"We are seeing a lot of interest from other disciplines that work with confidential, identifiable data such as social sciences and computing", says Monk, which means the university needed to develop tools enabling researchers to collaborate securely both internally and externally. As a result, Dundee has clear published guidance that helps research staff use the most appropriate method for storing and managing data, from the enterprise file sync and share service Box, through to the large IBM Spectrum Scale Research Data Stores and the highly secure environment within the HIC.

Monk explains that Dundee has several key approaches to improve secure storage and access to files. "Firstly, the data is anonymised for each research question. Secondly, to mitigate the risk of data leakage, the researcher does not get given the data; rather, they are given access to a virtual desktop from which they can run analysis. We have a lot of automated pre-processing and validation that ensures consistency in data definitions, usage and reduces the manual effort needed to get data to the researcher."