How local data can help healthcare

Big data is a huge talking point at the moment. Rt. Hon Francis Maude described data as “the 21st century’s new raw material” in a government whitepaper. We have seen infographics explode across the internet in many forms. Most recently, Public Health England’s longer lives website shows the power of data when interpreted with context and intent.

There have been many announcements in the past few months demanding that NHS organisations share data more widely – with patients, with the public and with each other. Transparency and data sharing, we are told, will drive choice and improvement.

Here at we have been thinking about how we can use our data. With over 17 million page impressions a month over a range of medical conditions and drugs, we have a lot of raw information to draw on.

Earlier in the year, we ran an experiment. During the Swansea Measles epidemic, we took a snapshot of our pages viewed and applied local filtering to it. Sure enough, Measles was at the top of the most viewed pages in Swansea whereas in other locales, conditions viewed were a lot different. (The screenshots below show Swansea vs London results). Further exploration showed us that there was a consistent variation in what pages were being viewed in different locales.



How can we harness this information? Could it provide an indication of local health issues that need tackling? Could it be used as a real-time red-flag indicator? If this locally-tailored information was presented to patients, in real-time, before they booked an appointment - could it help educate them or even reduce appointments?

We have now launched local ‘trending topics’ pages for all cities in the UK, plus heatmaps that show condition "hotspots" across the UK. You can take look for yourself and see the differences. We would be interested to see how you think this localised information could be used to help patients further - add your comments below.