NHS cyber security

The Department of Health and Social Care has announced new measures to strengthen NHS cyber security. The measures include a new deal with Microsoft to ensure all health and care organisations are using the latest Windows 10 software, a new digital security operations centre, upgrades to firewalls and network infrastructure, a data security and protection toolkit and a text messaging alert system in the event of internet and email services outages.

Security of network and information systems

The National Cyber Security Centre has published The NIS guidance collection.  This collection is intended to support the implementation of the EU Directive on the security of network and information systems (NIS) which becomes UK law in May 2018.  The Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has also published the government response to the recent consultation on the Security of Network and Information Systems Directive.

Additional link: Government press release

Storing NHS and social care data

NHS Digital, Department of Health & Social Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement have published NHS and social care data: off-shoring and the use of public cloud services.  This guidance explains the safeguards that must be put in place so health and social care organisations can safely locate health and social care data, including confidential patient information in the public cloud including solutions that make use of data off-shoring.

Additional link: NHS Digital press release

NICE recommends GPs develop a national autism register

GPs could be asked to develop a national autism register to help end the ‘invisibility’ of autistic people in the health system | GP Online

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NICE has recommended the register be implemented with a new QOF indicator.

The proposal follows the findings of the Westminster Commission on Autism, set up by the National Children’s Group and chaired by Labour MP Barry Sheerman. Its report found that 76% of autistic people and parents said their GP did not make any reasonable adjustments for them or their autistic child. The report said this was an indication that health professionals may not consistently identify and make accommodations for the needs of autistic people.

NICE said a register would make autistic patients more easily identifiable to healthcare professionals in GP practices and help staff adapt their approach to suit patients’ needs.

For example, NICE said, it would allow staff to arrange for autistic children to come for vaccinations at quieter times and turn lights down for those with sensory problems.

Read the full news story here

Missing data has risked GPs’ patient care

Missing patient data that was mistakenly held in storage for years has led to around 1,700 cases of potential harm caused to GPs’ patients, according to a report published today by the National Audit Office (NAO) | OnMedica

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The NAO’s Investigation: clinical correspondence handling at NHS Shared Business Services report details the watchdog’s investigation into how NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS) – an agency contracted by the government to run some back-office operations in the NHS – handled unprocessed clinical correspondence.

Significant amounts of important data on patients including test results and diagnoses were delayed mistakenly between 2011 and 2016 by the NHS Shared Business Services agency before they were delivered to hospitals and GP surgeries.

This data, which included copies of test or screening results, and communications about planned treatment following appointments with other healthcare providers, was sent by hospitals and other GPs to practices where the patient had moved away or was unknown, so needed to be redirected.

Can search engine data save lives from pancreatic cancer?

Gerd Gigerenzer discusses how search engines use big data analytics to “diagnose” your state of health | BMJ Opinion

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Image source: NIH Image Gallery – Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Image shows pancreatic desmoplasia. Pancreatic cancer is associated with a vast desmoplastic reaction in which the connective tissue around the tumor thickens and scars. 

Imagine this warning popping up on your search engine page: “Attention! There are signs that you might have pancreatic cancer. Please visit your doctor immediately.” Just as search engines use big data analytics to detect your book and music preferences, they may also “diagnose” your state of health.

Microsoft researchers have claimed that web search queries could predict pancreatic adenocarcinoma. A retrospective study of 6.4 million users of Microsoft’s search engine Bing identified first-person queries suggestive of a recent diagnosis, such as “I was told I have pancreatic cancer, what to expect.” Then the researchers went back months before these queries were made and looked for earlier ones indicating symptoms or risk factors, such as blood clots and unexplained weight loss. They concluded that their statistical classifiers “can identify 5% to 15% of cases, while preserving extremely low false-positive rates (0.00001 to 0.0001)”, and that “this screening capability could increase 5-year survival.” The New York Times reported: “The study suggests that early screening can increase the five-year survival rate of pancreatic patients to 5 to 7 percent, from just 3 percent.”

Read the full blog post here