When David Cameron announced last December that ‘Every NHS patient should be a research patient’ with their medical details opened up to private healthcare firms, his vision was that all of those who use the NHS would play a key role in supporting clinical research in the fight against diseases.

While there has been some uproar from the usual suspects in the press, the Prime Minister’s plans to change the NHS Constitution to allow patients’ data to be released for research should be welcomed, if the end result is not only to ensure that patients get faster access to new treatments but that Britain’s life sciences sector will become a world leader.

The details will be anonymous, meaning researchers should not be able to link what they receive to individual members of the public, and patients will also be able to opt out.

So, what does this mean for the healthcare IT industry? Many can argue that healthcare IT companies are already helping to provide solutions that help collect data from primary and secondary care, such as Hospital Episode Statistics from the Secondary Users Service and data from the GP Extraction Service, so is there any big change or opportunity here?

It appears so. Just nine months ago when the announcement was made, many healthcare IT companies continued with their daily business, with few realising the potential opportunities it may have for them and how quickly those opportunities might come to fruition.

Now the race is already on for many large companies trying to get ahead of the game for integrating clinical and genomic data to improve the affect of drugs on a number of diseases. Already companies like Oracle, Cerner, CSC, McKinsey and even the Department of Health are off  their starting blocks and are stepping up to the challenge to make a play for this market.

And the question is why? Well for many, the opportunity to become involved in an aspect of the market they had never envisaged is tempting enough, for others the potential to be involved in the process of developing life-saving drugs is incredibly rewarding but for many it could be because pharma pays. And generally it pays a lot! And as this is likely to be a Software as a Service model (SaaS), pharmas could well pay for a whole range of things from paying the NHS for the data itself and either partnering or paying healthcare IT suppliers to help make that data usable. Pharma could even pay the NHS for the hosting!

The way the process will work and how the currency will change hands remains to be seen but my prediction over the coming months is that there will certainly be some new healthcare IT players making a break for the pharma market.

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Jeremy Nettle

Jeremy Nettle

Industry Advisor
Jeremy is one of the best-known and most experienced figures in healthcare technology, having worked in the sector for more than thirty years.

He started his career as a clinician in the NHS and went on to become IT director at Salisbury Healthcare NHS Trust from 1997-2002. From there, he moved into the private sector when he joined Lockheed Martin as director of business development within the public sector; a new sector for the company.

Jeremy went on to work for Intellect (now techUK) as chair of the Health and Social Care Group, giving a voice to more than 260 suppliers on IT policy issues, before joining Oracle as director of business development, EMEA healthcare and then global client advisor for Health and Life Science.

Jeremy is now semi-retired, but still works as a health and social care business advisor and sits on the board of companies, educational organisations and charities. Since January 2019, he has also chaired Highland Marketing’s advisory board, which is available to the agency and its clients for advice and support on effective communications and marketing.

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