Tricky as it is, data is vital for delivering and improving healthcare. Even talking about it is like opening a can of worms - but that is exactly what we’re going to do.

At the Helix Centre — part of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London — our purpose is finding ways to drive progress in delivering high-quality healthcare for all. To do that, sometimes we have to answer tricky questions. That’s why we welcome you to help us open the can of worms and answer the question…

What are some of the benefits and risks of sharing healthcare data?


Open the can


Alzheimer’s Disease

Cathy’s mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and her local surgery had adopted an automated telephone system. The system is personalised, allowing patients to book appointments without much hassle, but personal details are needed to authenticate the person calling.

GP Visit

Gav feels rough and completely exhausted. The doctor says there has been a recent flu outbreak where Gav lives and that his symptoms are similar to the others’ who came in. Things get worse. His mate calls 111. Shortly thereafter Gav is in isolation with viral meningitis.


What is data?


Data is the facts, numbers and statistics that make up information. Thanks to data, we can check on tomorrow’s weather, but also predict the climate in twenty years.

In healthcare, data is used for everything from individual care to improving diagnoses and our understanding of diseases. Data is used to make treatment effective and help us foresee potential problems. Behind the scenes, data is used to evaluate policy, plan NHS services and keep patient care as safe as possible. Yet data can be a daunting subject. Just talking about data and its potential is like opening a can of worms — complicated, messy and often surprising.