The BSG is seeking to develop a data analytics group (DAG) for members with an interest in the technical aspects of data capture and analysis. This opportunity has arisen in recognition of the very significant changes occurring within the process of clinical documentation, the expansion in quality assurance databases and disease registries and the growing potential for big data linkage analyses across disparate platforms. The remit of the group will be to explore the practical and technical barriers to research, quality assurance and efficiency analysis so as to inform the society, maintain alignment with other sub-specialty societies and contribute to strategic discussion. If you would like to join the DAG (representation is sought from all four countries within NHS UK) and have experience with information systems please send an email outlining your interest.   

Rationale for a BSG Data Analytics Group

In recent months several colleagues have approached me expressing an interest in data analytics. The launch of the National Endoscopy Database (NED) and the establishment of the IBD registry, IBD BioResource and Bowel Cancer Screening programmes in combination with increasing familiarity with local audit of JAG quality standards and performance indicators may have contributed to this awakening. Recognition that a standardised  pseudo-anonymisation algorithm  has been adopted for the NHS identifier in Hospital Episode Statistics (HES), Patient Reported Outcome Measures  (PROMS) and Patient Level Information and Costing Systems (PLICS) databases suggests that we will start to see a growing number of big data linkage analyses. Although, as clinicians, we should all be interested in the outcomes of this research there may be a subset of BSG members that seek a deeper understanding of the underlying technical processes.

Several years ago the BSG disbanded the Information Technology committee, partly due to falling interest within the society. The remit of this group related to policy and guidelines and made recommendations for standardisation and interoperability. These undertakings have now been incorporated into the functions of the RCP Health Informatics Unit (HIU) and Professional Record Standards Body (PRSB). A new Faculty of Clinical Informatics (FCI) has recently become established within the UK and to my knowledge only two BSG members have been appointed as Fellows.

The purpose of this communication is to determine if there are other members interested in technical aspects of information research. There is no immediate plan to resurrect an Information Technology committee within the society but there may be sufficient enthusiasm to establish a Data Analytics Group (DAG). I envisage this would be a forum for exchange of ideas and technologies – and support the interests of the BSG in this rapidly growing area.  
The group would neither be funded by the BSG nor recognised as a sub-committee but CPD credits for contribution could be claimed within a study leave and travel portfolio if approved.

Benefit to individual members
Traditionally, responsibility for the task of departmental data analysis has fallen on junior medical staff and research fellows. Much of their efforts were self-taught and the excel spreadsheet found a niche role. With much larger datasets, deriving from a variety of sources, most self-taught enthusiasts begin to struggle. Appreciation of the technicalities of machine learning, artificial intelligence and the syntax of the world wide web requires specific training and there is likely to be a cohort of younger clinicians within the society with aptitude and energy to meet these challenges. The DAG would provide those individuals without immediate access to the universities a foundation for the development of new skills.

Benefit to the Society
Although it could be argued that responsibility for education and research in data analysis lies with the universities the risk to scientific societies like the BSG is that they advance without technical understanding or strategic direction. The society becomes reliant on the counsel of individuals who may not see the big picture or recognise the constraints of information flow within the four countries of the UK. The DAG would have the potential to generate new ideas and identify the blocks to achieving them.
Jonathan Brown,
BSG Health Informatics Lead


Jonathan Brown
Health Informatics Lead, BSG