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What is health informatics?

Medical research generates unimaginably vast amounts of information every day. These large and complex health informatics datasets can help us understand the causes of disease. In turn, this understanding can help us develop more effective treatments, and improve our healthcare services.

Map of the Farr Institute universities, which are distributed across the UK. Larger spots = eHIRC sites at Dundee, London, Manchester and Swansea.The UK has a unique research advantage in health informatics. The NHS contains a wealth of patient information on the whole UK population throughout the life course. Researchers are finding efficient and effective ways to analyse this data securely and link it to high-quality genetic and biological data to gain new medical insights. No other country has this amount and type of data held by a single healthcare provider.

The MRC has been developing techniques to seize this opportunity for many years. For example in 2013 together with nine partners encompassing charities, research councils and government departments, the MRC invested £40 million to establish the Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research. The Farr Institute has brought together medical, population and data scientists from across the UK to analyse and link large health datasets. This research will help to benefit the health of patients and the public, and will boost the UK’s reputation as a world leader in research using electronic health data. The qualitative examples of research outputs highlighted below demonstrate the impact of MRC-funded research in this area.