New UK research partnership to unlock medical evidence

14 December 2016

Researchers in the School of Computer Science and Informatics will look at how free-text in medical records can be coded to enhance health services

The School of Computer Science and Informatics is part of a new cross-sector network to unlock evidence in medical records.

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Healthcare Text Analytics Research Network (Healtex) was launched last month and assembles expertise from across the UK to transform the written, free-text element of electronic health records and healthcare social media into practical research data.

Cardiff’s School of Computer Science and Informatics is a founding member of the network, which currently consists of 14 UK universities, 8 NHS Trusts, private sector partners including Toshiba and Lingumatics, and researchers from across The Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research.

The unstructured free-text element of a patient’s medical records allows clinicians to add valuable context about their patients’ health, including symptoms and side-effects. By translating this text into quantifiable datasets the information can be analysed by researchers to support and enhance existing sources of patient information like medication data and test results. The data will provide a more accurate picture of the UK health system, and can be used by researchers to make health services more efficient and more responsive to patients’ needs.

Professor Irena Spasic from the School of Computer Science and Informatics, said: “HealTex partners have already built a notable track record in healthcare text analytics. However, these activities have been largely uncoordinated at the UK level and focused on local collaboration with specific NHS departments. By bringing the key research groups together in a collaborative network, we aim to accelerate the impact that text analytics is making to healthcare nationally”.

As well as analysing information from healthcare records, Healtex will study how social media conversations can be harvested to further enhance the range and quality of research data.  By capturing patient feedback and structuring this into relevant and practical information, patient voices will contribute to the improvement of health services and care pathways. The network will also investigate the legal landscape to ensure the trustworthy re-use of health narrative data and will involve patients and members of the public throughout the project to ensure their rights are protected.

For more information about Healtex please go to: http://healtex.org/.