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SynthLab: innovating with NHS Scotland data

Posted on June 05, 2018

The results of Wallscope’s collaborative R&D project with Edinburgh University Business School (EUBS) and the Information Services Division (ISD) of NHS Scotland have been published in a report by Professor Jake Ansell, Dr Raffaella Calabrese and team.

This proof of concept project, funded by The Data Lab, aimed to demonstrate the feasibility of using open data released by ISD to identify patterns in prescribing and clinical practice.

This was a continuation of Wallscope’s work with ISD as part of the Scottish Government’s CivTech programme, which facilitates collaboration between Government and innovative SMEs to drive change and improve public services.

Creating visualisations and predictive models from data

Wallscope and EUBS have now developed a sampling technique that can be used for spatial and temporal health and care data. Professor Ansell said: “Combining our modelling efforts with Wallscope’s capability in handling information has great potential in both medical and non-medical areas which we hope to pursue in the near future.”

Wallscope’s SynthLab platform works by clustering data into groups that have similar properties – in this case GP practices. Using data models based on these groups, it is possible to create visualisations and predictive models. These can be used to inform decision making and to feed business intelligence tools – for example, to predict where demand for a particular drug will rise or fall over time. They could also help to tackle the issue of unwarranted variation in prescribing practice, which was raised by Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood in her annual report (April 2018).

Making use of 'synthetic data'

Due to the sensitive nature of patient information, we make use of ‘synthetic data’ – realistic data sets that can be released without the risk of identifying individuals. Using our platform, completely anonymous yet realistic data could be released to drive innovation and tackle these issues in the NHS across Scotland.

Gillian Docherty, CEO of The Data Lab said: “We are delighted with the success of the SynthLab R&D project, and look forward to see what the next stages will bring. It is projects like this one that help us demonstrate the positive impacts that open data can have on people’s lives when used responsibly and ethically. Synthetic data has once again proven to be a very useful tool for research projects, where algorithms are tested before being applied on real data.”

The next steps for this project will be to include further data in order to refine the clusters, develop the algorithms and assess the most effective ways in which such a system could be used within ISD.

Jonathan Cameron, Head of Service in ISD, added: “The development of SynthLab is a very exciting project for us, and there is great potential in the use of Synthetic Data for a wide range of research and data science-based projects. We look forward to working closely with Wallscope to drive further improvements for the NHS in Scotland.”

Find out more about Wallscope’s Dynamic Data Discovery platform on their website.

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