MIDAS: Big Data for Health Policy Symposium, 20-21 January 2020

Guest post by Jonathan Wallace  from  Ulster University

Ulster University’s Magee campus, in Derry/Londonderry, hosted the European Union funded ‘Big Data for Health Policy Symposium’ on the 20th and 21st of January 2020. The event welcomed a wide range of experts from academia and business to Derry/Londonderry, and through workshops and co-design sessions sought to address the needs of health policymakers and citizens through the delivery of a unified big data platform.

The event concluded the tenure of the Ulster University led ‘Meaningful Integration of Data, Analytics and Services’ (MIDAS) research programme which was awarded over 4.5 million euros in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme and work began on the project in 2016. The project has enabled participants to tap into unstructured and unconnected healthcare data to better inform policy, reduce costs and improve health and wellbeing of the population. The MIDAS platform investigates connecting open data and data from European health authorities with individual data collected from apps and social media. Complying with the highest standards of data protection and ethics, the data is analysed on the MIDAS platform, which provides a tool for policy makers to benchmark, simulate and forecast outcomes of healthcare policy decisions.

The free to attend event included contributions from health policy departments from Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Basque Country and Finland, and provided training and development workshops around the value of data, data science, GDPR and the Honest Broker Model.

With the project due to complete at the end of February 2020, this was the last face to face event, comprising a large consortium of more than 60 academics, industrialists and policy makers from across Europe. The event was attended by project consortium associates, as well as health practitioners and acclaimed policy leads from beyond the project. In addition, the other five projects funded by the same H2020 PM18 call that funded MIDAS were in attendance and shared their Big Data findings with the audience.

The overall MIDAS project goal is to connect more heterogeneous data sets to better inform policy, reduce costs and improve health and wellbeing of the population, and through sessions on areas of AI, Big Data and Ethics, attendees were able to examine the application of data to public policy outcomes.

The event was designed to be enjoyable and useful for both technical and non-technical stakeholders and provided an insight into how participatory design methods can make technology more effective and meaningful for individuals and organisations.

Summary of Attendees

  • Technical partners from MIDAS from research institutions, universities and industry across Europe (Ulster University, NI; DCU, ROI; KU Leuven, Belgium; Vicomtech, Basque Country; University of Oulu, Finland; Analytics Engines, NI; VTT, Finland; and IBM, ROI
  • Health policy department representatives from each of the MIDAS pilot site regions in NI (BSO), ROI (HSE), Basque Country (BIOEF and Public Health) and Finland (THL)
  • Honest Broker related speakers representing South Eastern Trust, NI; Public Health England, UK; NHS National Services Scotland, UK; FinData, Finland; and Public Health, Basque Country
  • GPIP representatives (NI)
  • MyData representatives (Finland)
  • Digital learning representatives
  • H2020 PM-18 project representatives (covering 5 projects)
  • Centre for Personalised Medicine (CPM)
  • AI experts (VTT, Finland; KU Leuven, Belgium; and Kainos, NI)
  • PhD students from Ulster University researching topics related to Data Science, AI, Big Data and Health
  • Policy experts external to MIDAS from LANAU International Healthcare & Consultancy, NI and Centich, France
  • Strong representation from several Health Trusts in Northern Ireland with attendees from clinical, policy and technical backgrounds in attendance
  • PPI representation: Staff (particularly clinical) from various organisations who represent the people who use services were in attendance from:
    • South Eastern HSC Trust (NI)
    • Southern HSC Trust (NI)
    • Belfast HSC Trust (NI)
    • Western HSC Trust (NI)
    • Public Health & Intelligence, NHS National Services Scotland (UK)
    • Public Health (Basque Country)
    • HSE (ROI)
    • THL (Finland)