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2. Prof Daniel Ray, Director of data, NHS Digital

Daniel Ray

Path to power

 

I started out in a medical microbiology lab, quickly moving into data and informatics where I have been for 20 years. I moved into head of information in a primary care trust and worked in a number of acute hospitals in various informatics roles.I became director of informatics in a large trust where I led a large data transformation programme to improve care for patients. I led the data modelling that transitioned activity from two sites into a £550 million pounds new PFI. I led the development of a national and international clinical data benchmarking tool (delivered to Australia and Italy). I was involved in working with the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health on data informatics, and led the development of an international hospital benchmarking tool in association with KPMG. I have led and delivered a large number of big data health research completing peer review journal publications in a range of health-related topics, leading me to become a professor of health informatics in 2015. I also led the creation of a patient-centred portal enabling them to access all their health data via an online portal. Nationally, I am the director of data at NHS Digital and business lead for the National Data Processing Services and chair the overarching product forum, as well as publications, AI, statistics, analysis and research enablement at NHS Digital for the NHS in England.

 

What has been the highlight of your career in the industry to date?

 

I would say three highlights:1) Developing an international health data benchmarking and outcomes data analytics solution and working with various countries around the world. This led to valuable data insights in healthcare across countries being able to be achieved. 2) Leading the delivery of a range of national health data initiatives in a national role in NHS Digital including being the business lead for a multi-million pounds data processing services platform. 3) Finally, building one of the first patient portals in the country giving patients full electronic access online to their entire medical records.

 

If you could give your younger self some advice about how to progress in this industry, what would it be?

 

Stay current with the tech at all times. Take time to understand the balance of keeping trust and also utility of data to improve care for people. Relationships at all levels are very important - ensure that they are built and you have the right people around you at all times.

 

Did 2018 turn out the way you expected? If not, in what ways was it different?

 

I think 2018 did turn out as I expected, really. I guess in a couple of areas maybe better than expected. There have been no major breaches of the new General Data Protection Regulation that came into force in May - no significant numbers of breaches and no major fines, which is a good thing. I expected there to be more of an impact of AI than there has been, but I still think it is early days and time needs to be taken to get this right.

 

What do you expect 2019 to be like for the industry?

 

I think we will see a number of new applications of AI/ML and other data science approaches solving problems in new ways. I think with this there will be new levels and ways of insight gained which are far greater than there have been before, particularly in providing more targeted prediction and the increased use of cognitive avatars, as well as natural query language. I think the industry is under a lot of pressure to ensure the data utility versus trust balance is maintained in light of GDPR.

 

Talent and skills are always a challenge to find - how are you tackling this in your organisation?

 

We have put all (circa 300) of our analysts, stats and data science individuals through technical tests to evaluate where the staff are skills-wise. We are evaluating the aptitude of staff to receive training and how quickly we can skill staff up into gaining new skills. We are doing this by putting on internal training as well as looking to external companies to provide training. We are also actively recruiting inwards, as well as bringing in graduates and setting up secondments.

 

What aspect of data, analytics or their use are you most optimistic about and why?

 

The level of technology software, advanced techniques and utility that we can solve and address problems that previously have been not possible. In health, for example, we are tackling cancer survival outcomes inequality in England looking at survival rates across the country and honing in on variations to understand why.

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