Ulster Uni to lead €4.5m European healthcare research project

31 Aug 2016

Ulster University will lead a major healthcare policy research project. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Ulster University will lead a multidisciplinary, international research project that will use big data to transform healthcare policy across Europe.

Under the Horizon 2020 initiative, the Meaningful Integration of Data, Analytics and Services (MIDAS) project will be coordinated in Ulster University.

With a fund of €4.5m, partners from all over the world – including Dublin City University and IBM Ireland – will look to ‘better inform public policy’ through the use of big data.

MIDAS will ultimately develop a digital platform for healthcare policymakers, which will have the ability to engage with healthcare data that is both unstructured and unconnected at the moment.

Ulster University

Dr Michaela Black, the lead researcher and project coordinator at Ulster University, said vast amounts of healthcare data is generated every day, with prescription orders, waiting lists, vitals and bed availability just some of the various areas that we should, in theory, tap into.

MIDAS will essentially bring together numerous stakeholders to investigate connecting patient data from European health authorities, with individual data collected from apps, sensors and social media.

“Currently, no system combines secured and anonymised data from a range of sources, such as that directly available from the public,” said Black, noting lifestyle data from Fitbits isn’t married up with hospital records.

“Our research will harness this available data to provide extremely valuable insights into the health of a population.

“With these insights, policymakers can design evidence-based preventative strategies and implement policies that address specific health and social care challenges.”

Included in the MIDAS project are US institutions like Arizona State University, national healthcare bodies like the NHS in the UK and HSE in Ireland, and organisations from Spain, Belgium, Slovenia and Finland.

“[This] research will dramatically enhance the effectiveness of healthcare policies across Europe by allowing decision makers to more readily explore health trends, test theories and look for correlations and patterns,” said Black.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic