Why is it important to use patient data?

There is huge potential to make better use of information from patient records. Data is vital for your individual care, and to improve health, care and services across the NHS.

Giving individual care

Good quality information is essential to inform our clinical care. Everyone should have access to information about their own healthcare, to check the information is accurate and to help manage any condition. Your whole care team, whether in a GP practice, a hospital or a care home, needs to have access to up-to-date information about you to inform your treatment, and to provide the best care.

Improving health, care and NHS services

If small amounts of data from many patients are linked up and pooled, researchers and doctors can look for patterns in the data, helping them develop new ways of predicting or diagnosing illness, and identify ways to improve clinical care. The information can be used to help:

  • understand more about disease risks and causes
  • improve diagnosis
  • develop new treatments and prevent disease
  • plan NHS services
  • improve patient safety
  • evaluate government and NHS policy.

You can find examples of how data is used for each of these purposes in our searchable bank of case studies

Picture of a wheel showing different ways patient data can be used.

How is patient data used?

Patient data must be kept safe and secure, to protect your confidentiality.  It’s important everyone should be able to find out about how data is used, including having answers to key questions:

  • What happens to patient data?
  • How is data kept safe?
  • Who can access patient data?
  • What are the risks?
  • Can I be identified from the data?
  • What choices do I have?
How is patient data used?

Patient data saves lives: Dementia

Derek had been worried about his wife’s memory for a while. Ann seemed to be forgetting things more often. Supported by research on past patient data, a specialist confirms that Ann has dementia. Ann and Derek decide together to contribute to future research. Ann agrees that data about her treatment and experience of dementia can be collected, shared securely and used by researchers for studies to improve care. 

Find out how patient data makes a difference