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Accessing data from existing sources

Accessing data from existing sources to get ready for data scientists.
In this mini lecture, we’re going to look at how you can collect data from different data sources, data that you’ll need for your analytics and visualisation projects. If we also look at the Open Data Institute’s data spectrum, we can also understand the different levels of access you might get to different data sources to enable you to do your analytics. For example, some systems might be very closed, allowing only internal employees access, whereas other systems might be much more open and allow you to access data that is publicly available and licenced for reuse. In Scotland, the NHS and NHS Research Scotland have a lot of data held in areas called Data Safe Havens.
Currently, Scotland has regional Safe Havens located within Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, and a National Safe Haven. These Safe Havens work to agreed principles and standards to allow the data to be accessed and shared with trusted members for research and other purposes. It gives researchers and professionals access to high-quality data at the touch of a button and is example of developing research excellence in Scotland within the NHS. Within this, users get trusted access to high-quality data that they are able to use for their research. And it can give them access to various different pieces of data that can be integrated together. And that is where you get additional value from data.
If you are lucky enough to be able to access the NHS Safe Haven data sets, then you’ll be in an excellent position to undertake some high-quality analytics on high-quality data. In some cases, there may be a subset of data that you can access in your organisation that might be statistically controlled to reduce access or visibility of personal information. Generally speaking, data given to researchers may be statistically anonymized to reduce the potential to identify people within research. This is still normally a high-quality data set that allows good, quality research. So if you have access to data in Safe Havens, you’ll be able to use that to undertake analytics. And you’d be in a good position with your data collection.
Recent health and social care integration has also set up the concept of information and data sharing protocols to allow you to access data from partner organisations. So if you’ve hired a NHS board, you could access council data and vise versa. This will give you greater access to other data sets and allow you to integrate data together for your research purposes. So it is possible to access this data via Safe Havens and also for data to be shared from other organisations. The data can be shared in a number of ways, for example, simply by email. Although, it might be more secure and more practical to use a specified system for sharing data and one that has been developed for that purpose.
UrbanTide’s USmart data-sharing system allows for the sharing of data with trusted individuals or partner organisations. It keeps the data secure, while allowing named access to different data sets. If you go to, you’ll be able to see a long list of organisations using data-sharing services, and also get in touch with UrbanTide if you want further information or to set up a trial. And the final step in the data sharing spectrum looks at open data. In Scotland, we have great resource of open data provided by the NHS called Within that, you can see some excellent data sets that have been released for public consumption and open data reuse.
So you can go and collect data from these sources, as well, and integrate those into your analytics. If we look at one of the most popular data sets, we can see prescription data being provided on a monthly basis that indicates all the prescriptions given out in Scotland by ADR, by doctor surgery, and by pharmacist. This is a fantastic resource and has been used frequently as part of research projects. So in summary, the collection of data for your research projects or analytics will take some time. But you have a number of different options. Look in your own organisation first, and for example, NHS Safe Havens.
Then look to getting data from your partner organisations through data-sharing protocols which could be accessed either manually or via online software. Or consider accessing data from online systems that is more open or completely open data that allows for the reuse of this data for any purpose. Bringing all of these different data sources together will enrich your research project or your analytics project that you’re undertaking. It will help you to visualise better results and deliver better outcomes for health and social care.

In this presentation we hear about the main sources of data likely to fuel data science in the health and care sector.

We take you through the different types of data and the systems that store them and we illustrate external sources of data and the opportunity that this brings.

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The Power of Data in Health and Social Care

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