Sir Tim Berners-Lee calls for open healthcare data by default

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Setting up accountability would allay fears of privacy infringement.

Heatlhcare data should be open by default in order to support research and medical breakthroughs, according to Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Speaking at a roundtable event hosted by the Open Data Institute, Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, said: “I want to use this opportunity to put in a big plea for clinical data being by default available for research.”

The topic of data use in healthcare has been a sensitive subject for many, with the scheme receiving strong criticism from the Major Projects Authority, which deemed it ‘unachievable’.

One of the main issues with using healthcare data is public concern over the sensitivity of the data and who has access to it.

Berners-Lee, said that a form of accountability could be set up, which would allay fears of any infringements on the privacy of individuals. In theory, people could have records of how their data has been used and by whom.

Speaking to CBR, David Richards, CEO, WANdisco, was critical of how the NHS had approached data use, saying: “I think the NHS took the wrong path, if they did it again they could do it themselves they don’t need to go to external companies to do it, it could be done in-house and make it a huge success.” The full interview is here.

As data use becomes more prevalent it is clear that healthcare cannot ignore the benefits of it. However, overcoming people’s fears of how the data will be used and be accessed by is a big hurdle which it is yet to overcome.

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