Enabling a high performing platform for international health data research
28 June 2019
In July 2018, the Health Informatics Team at Swansea University, was awarded capital funding by HDR UK to develop, update and secure the future of the UK Secure eResearch Platform (UKSeRP). SImon Ellwood-Thompson explains how this is being developed to enable health data research at scale.
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Led by Simon Ellwood-Thompson, Chief Technology Officer at Swansea University Medical School, UKSeRP hosts health data and provides a safe environment for data and tools for collaborative research programmes involving researchers from all over the world.
UKSeRP hosts billions of anonymised health records about the population of Wales and has developed as a space for other important research activities to base their data. Organisations that have chosen to host their data on this resource include Monash University in Melbourne and the world-leading birth cohort study, Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).
“Our ambition is to enable health data research at scale by providing the tools and data to answer the most challenging research questions.” said Simon Ellwood-Thompson.
How has HDR UK’s investment supported UKSeRP?
This investment by HDR UK has allowed us to add considerable capability to the platform, improve performance and resilience. This has allowed us to provide a faster and more efficient service to users from across the world.
We have plans to grow this further over the next 12 months, including adding the ability to use machine learning and artificial intelligence, which will enable cutting edge research, as well as increasing the compute capacity by five times and adding an extra 1.8 petabytes to double our data storage capacity.
What difference is this making to health data research?
This service is exciting because it is already enabling researchers to focus on answering their questions and to generate new knowledge about diseases and their treatments. The developments will be a step change in our ability to run health research programmes quickly, efficiently and will ultimately improve people’s lives.
One of the greatest strengths of the platform is that is enables linkage across data types. We started with routine patient data (from health and social care interactions), and we now support a range of data including medical images, genomic data and developing capability for free text (such as doctors’ notes). This will support health data research at scale in terms of the quantity and depth of data that can be accessed by researchers.
Simon Ellwood-Thompson said: “We’re here to assist the scientists to achieve greater things by giving them the tools and data to answer the most challenging research questions.”