Blog post written (and doodles drawn) by Centre for Personalised Medicine Junior Research Fellow Rachel Horton

The Centre for Personalised Medicine is currently running a doodle competition for people at St Anne’s. (If you work or study at St Anne’s and you’re reading this before 28th February 2022, you’ve still got time to enter!)

The theme for the competition is ‘healthcare data’, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what people create, both because I’m sure it will help my own ideas around what healthcare data are and the interesting issues around them, but also because it’s a forerunner for a schools competition that I’m very excited about.

That said, ‘healthcare data’ in some ways feels like an inaccessible topic so I’m a bit nervous that people won’t see this as relevant to them. But the collection and use of healthcare data impact on everyone. We need data to understand and explore ways to improve healthcare, and we also need to consider what it means to be contributing data to such projects. What are the benefits and what are the risks?

For starters, what actually are healthcare data? We’d probably all agree on some aspects, like if you have your blood pressure measured by your GP, the measurement counts as ‘healthcare data’. But how about the information your phone might record about how many steps you’ve done today? Or the time you googled ‘what does croup cough sound like’? Or the information your local supermarket might have about how often they restocked the paracetamol this year?

When thinking about the healthcare data doodle competition, I had a go at a few doodles to try to draw out some thoughts around ‘healthcare data’ some a bit facetious and some more serious:

Doodle "What are healthcare data?"
Doodle of "whose data am I sharing?"
Doodle of "do data help you see people?"
Doodle of "is that healthcare data?"

It’s interesting how many questions come up as soon as you start thinking about healthcare data, but somehow as a topic it perhaps looks a bit dry and distant from day-to-day life. How can we involve everyone in the decisions that we need to make as a society about how we collect and use healthcare data? The team at Understanding Patient Data is doing a lot of work on this, and it’s also an issue we’re really interested in at the Centre for Personalised Medicine (see animation here exploring using hospital data to improve healthcare).

If you work or study at St Anne’s, please join in and draw some doodles for our competition! But whether you’re based at St Anne’s or not, we’d love to hear more about what you think around these issues – how can we show everyone that they have experiences with and opinions about healthcare data, and that as a society we have choices to make as to how healthcare data is thought of, collected and used?