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The Scottish Health Informatics Programme (SHIP) is an ambitious, Scotland-wide research platform for the collation, management, dissemination and analysis of Electronic Patient Records (EPRs). The programme brings together the Universities of Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews with the Information Services Division (ISD) of NHS Scotland.
SHIP is funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council and aims to:
- Provide access to an exciting new national research facility, firmly embedded within and supported by NHS Scotland, providing the basis for numerous future studies using EPRs.
- Create a research portal for EPRs already held by NHS Scotland that will provide rapid, secure, access to the type of data that clinical scientists require.
- Develop and evaluate systems that work across institutional boundaries to allow linkage between large, federated, third party research datasets and the NHS research portal.
SHIP researchers carry out their work by studying anonymised patient records across the whole of Scotland. To do this they need secure access to data and advanced capacity for statistical analysis. Our systems will work across institutional boundaries to allow easy data linkage on a national scale while protecting patient confidentiality.
This will be a powerful tool for understanding patterns of health and disease in the population and for assessing the effectiveness of interventions in delivering public benefit. This will lead to real health improvements for Scotland's people now and in the future
- Engaging with researchers in a programme of training seminars and workshops and a biennial conference on "Exploiting Existing Data for Health Research".
- Engaging with the public, building on considerable experience in the field of the public's attitudes to genetic studies, to define a transparent and publicly acceptable approach to the governance of EPR research.
- Producing novel research using EPRs and major longitudinal cohort databases, specifically in the areas of clinical trials, pharmacovigilance, diabetes epidemiology, and research resulting from the linkage of EPRs to socioeconomic and environmental data.
- Exploring the feasibility of taking major genetic studies in Scotland back through time by linking historical vital events data for the >20,000 study members and their families.
SHIP believes that a step-change in the quality, quantity and governance of research using EPRs can now be achieved with a more joined-up Scottish-wide strategy. Instead of the ad hoc linkages used to date, the SHIP programme will provide a platform for Scottish record linkage that will drive EPR research throughout the UK and abroad.
SHIP brings together the Information Services Division (ISD) of NHS Scotland and a genuinely inter-disciplinary group of academics providing a breadth of expertise in medicine and social science. The team includes leading international experts in the field who have skills in record linkage; the statistical analysis of routine data; longitudinal studies; social science; legal, ethical and confidentiality issues; genetic studies; and clinical trials design and execution. The strong collaboration between academics and experts in the Scottish NHS are driving the successful implementation of this ambitious endeavour.
The Principal Investigator is Professor Andrew Morris. He has extensive experience in the management of large inter-institutional research programmes. He is also eHealth Director of NHS Tayside and a member of the NHS Scotland eHealth Strategy Board.
Core Programmes and Research Programmes
The programme of work is centred around a core set of four generic activities (C1-C4): provisioning of datasets for research (C1); governance (C2); engaging researchers (C3); and engaging the public (C4). These activities will develop the infrastructure for inter-organisational data sharing in Scotland and build capacity to provide a sustainable future for EPR research.
The core programmes support a related series of four work packages which will produce novel research using EPRs and major longitudinal cohort databases. These are: supporting clinical trials (RP1); national epidemiology (RP2); pharmacovigilance (RP3); and the linkage of EPRs to socioeconomic, geospatial and environmental data (RP4).
Each research package has clearly defined goals. Key to SHIP is the synergies that develop between the core and research packages in this integrated programme of work - each component benefits from the work being conducted in other parts of the programme.