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Uses of data within the NHS include improving decision-making in patient care and monitoring both the success of treatments and the performance of care providers. Outside the NHS, data is sought by, for example, academics for research and commercial organisations for monitoring and developing drugs. The Medical Research Council has stated that the UK could be a global leader in the field of health data research. However, there are also challenges in using healthcare data. Some of these are technological, but there is also widespread concern about privacy and public trust, partly in the light of recent breaches of data security.

The use of data in healthcare in England is guided and delivered by a range of organisations. The roles of these bodies have sometimes overlapped, and some past strategies for data usage are no longer considered appropriate. Steps are currently being taken to address these issues. The recently appointed Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, has also stated that technology was one of his three “early priorities” and committed £475 million to enhance technology-driven health and care.

Two emerging data-driven technologies with the potential to improve healthcare outcomes are artificial intelligence and genomics. These also highlight the potential commercial value of NHS data and there are debates about how this might be realised. Data and technology might also be used to reduce costs in the NHS, with one estimate putting potential savings at 7 to 11.5 percent of healthcare expenditure.

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