COVID-19: UK’s National Health Service Enlists Big Data, AI, and Cloud to Fight the Virus

Summary Bullets:

• The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) plans to harness the power of big data, AI, and cloud computing to manage and help contain the health crisis created by COVID-19 (coronavirus).

• Technology partners supporting this big data-based initiative include Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Amazon Web Services.

The UK’s NHS has unveiled a government-initiated plan to harness the power of big data, AI, and cloud computing to manage and help contain the health crisis created by COVID-19. Specifically, the UK government has commissioned NHS England, NHS Improvement, which oversees the local NHS trusts, and NHSX, which is responsible for NHS digital innovation, to construct a big data platform to help those responsible for coordinating the response to the crisis – including government and health service officials.The platform will be constructed with the help of multiple technology partners, including Microsoft, which is building a dedicated data store to support the solution within its Azure cloud platform, and Google, whose G Suite productivity apps will enable the NHS to collect critical real-time information on hospital responses to COVID-19. Other technology partners include Palantir, whose Foundry software will power the platform’s frontend dashboard features, and Faculty, a London-based artificial intelligence (AI) technology specialist. The latter will develop dashboard models and simulations that will provide key decision-makers with in-depth information on the current state of COVID-19 in the UK and its likely future development. A fifth technology partner, Amazon Web Services, will provide additional cloud computing resources.

The new NHS platform will leverage data from multiple sources, including information on patient occupancy levels and the use of beds within individual hospitals, the capacity of A&E departments, the length of COVID-19 patient stays, ventilator usage, and staff sickness levels. The platform will also make use of COVID-19 test result data from Public Health England and data from calls to the number 111, which enables patients to get urgent healthcare information and advice about the virus.Platform data will be accessible via an end user dashboard, a beta version of which will be ready to share with key decision-makers this week. The information available will allow decision-makers to understand how the virus is spreading locally and regionally, in order to identify and assess the risk to vulnerable groups. It will also help officials proactively increase resources in emerging hotspots, ensure critical equipment is supplied to hospitals and medical facilities with the greatest need, and divert patients to facilities that are best equipped to care for them, based on things like demand, resources and staffing capacity.

All data collected and used by the new NHS platform will be subject to data protection legislation and will remain under the control of NHS England and NHS Improvement. Once the public health emergency has ended, the data will either be destroyed or returned to its original sources in line with the law and the strict contractual agreements that exist between the NHS and its partners.


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