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Associate feature: Supporting decisions, saving lives: the power of data in a pandemic

Paul Johnson - Image credit: Radar Healthcare

Associate feature: Supporting decisions, saving lives: the power of data in a pandemic

Information is transformational

Using technology more effectively can help save lives. From using data to analyse the efficacy of particular treatments to prompting clinicians and carers to take a particular action at a key moment, utilising information in creative ways can be transformational for healthcare. We have seen these successes in our sector, from Google’s pioneering work to help doctors speed up the detection of acute kidney injury through their ‘Streams’ app to Babylon’s remote GP consultation software.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is no doubt a vital component for keeping doctors and patients safe. But focusing solely on PPE and ventilators as weapons for fighting infections is not enough to win the battle. Organised, real-time data is crucial to helping healthcare professionals reduce the spread of infections and should be considered an essential frontline tool.


Pandemics are different

Pandemics are unusual because there are so many complex data points: the rate of infection in the population and how that differs between settings, how the virus is being transmitted, which interventions are being made and how effective they are, the list goes on. This information is often disparate and there are knowledge gaps on an organisational level. Resolving this would enable us to gain a full understanding of what’s happening regionally and nationally.

The pandemic has changed behaviour and introduced new approaches given the speed at which a response has been required. Regulators are posing new questions about how to most effectively deal with similar situations, and the answer often lies in gathering and understanding information about how individual organisations have responded. Data collection will play an even more prominent role in developing best practice for public health emergencies.

Information is our weapon

At Radar, we transform data into actionable insights. We know safe environments exist where decision making is supported by real-time data. Clinicians and carers are more effective when outbreak workflows are automated, symptom information is communicated effectively and when hazards are digitally audited.

At regional and national levels, a range of infection control methods are used such as syndromic surveillance, which is useful but usually suffers from a time delay that can hamper the response. Decision support tools, like we provide, can significantly impact outcome likelihoods by putting patient management strategies in place. This is effective and based on organising information and identifying trends, which may have otherwise been hidden.

The role AI has played in COVID-19 to complement human intelligence has been significant, demonstrating the vital role of data collection. Used correctly, the ability to collect and analyse data and use results to initiate interventions is extremely powerful. Imagine a situation where an outbreak occurs in a nearby care home. Custom protocols can identify this event and trigger automatic interventions, like flagging to staff a requirement to suspend visiting and increase resident monitoring, helping carers to react in time to save lives.


Thoughts on the future

The battle against a virus isn’t fought in Whitehall. It’s fought in the hospitals, surgeries and care homes across the country. It’s fought by nurses, practice managers, doctors and carers. The battlefields are the handles, hugs and hands and we’ll need more than soap to win. We need information – it’s there, we just need to start collecting and using it.

Global collaboration is needed for AI to make an impact on a higher level. We can be better prepared for future pandemics, respond better and contain outbreaks more effectively with the help of an innovation-led approach that embraces data sharing. The key is to be brave and embrace the transformative potential of information.


For more information please visit


Paul Johnson is the CEO of Radar Healthcare, a digital health company specialising in quality and compliance software.

This article was sponsored by Radar Healthcare.

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