Chief medical officer calls for improvements in cancer care

A call for groundbreaking data science solutions to improve cancer care has been launched today.

A patients cancer journey leaves a data trail from diagnosis to treatment to recovery. Picture: PA

The Cancer Innovation Challenge aims to inspire data and technical proposals to help Scotland become a world leading health system for people with the disease.

Chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood launched the new programme on the last day of DataFest17 in Edinburgh – which has attracted international experts to celebrate data innovation and showcase Scotland’s world class data science capabilities.

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A patient’s cancer journey leaves a data trail from diagnosis to treatment to recovery. The Cancer Innovation Challenge invites data scientists, technicians and clinicians to develop leading-edge solutions that will allow the NHS in Scotland to use this data to refine diagnosis, select treatments and improve the experience for patients.

This could be by generating analytical insights into care resourcing or useful ways of visualising large amounts of data on treatment plans or prescriptions. It will aim to enable patients to record experiences of their cancer journey and integrate the resulting data into NHS systems to improve patient care.

Dr Calderwood, said: “If used in the right way, data can be a vital tool in our efforts to improve services, treatments and outcomes for people with cancer. This Cancer Challenge is about finding innovative ways of using the data that exists, while continuing to guarantee patient confidentiality. I look forward to seeing the outcomes of this challenge, and the benefits it will bring to cancer patients and their families.”

The Cancer Innovation Challenge is funded by the Scottish Funding Council and is being delivered by three Scottish innovation centres – led by The Data Lab and supported by the Digital Health and Care Institute (DHI) and Stratified Medicine Scotland (SMS).

Gillian Docherty, chief executive of The Data Lab, said: “There have been phenomenal advances in cancer care in Scotland over the last decade, and while we understand the outcomes of patient care, time and funding constraints sometimes limit our ability to analyse how cancer services could be improved. The data industry will contribute £20 billion to Scotland’s economy by 2020 and data has the power to help better provide better cancer services.”

The challenge will work with healthcare professionals to create a safe, secure and anonymous environment, which will protect patient confidentially, for data linkage and analysis.

Open Cancer Data Dive events and a programme of public engagement activities will also be held as part of the initiative.

John Kemp, interim Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said: “A challenge to improve the prevention of cancer and care of people with cancer is good news for patients and for Scotland.

“Combining the different areas of expertise in the three innovation centres and the NHS will help Scotland become a world leading carer for people with cancer.”