With the era of open information now underway, healthcare researchers now have access to promising new threads of knowledge - known as "big data" due to both its volume and complexity.
By bringing together data from thousands of patients and GP consultations, researchers have the ability to source the most reliable evidence for clinical and health service decision making. Several groups in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences are using big data to generate new insights into areas of primary care where there is most need. For example, through the EBM Data Lab's Open Prescribing project, raw data from the NHS on what drugs each GP prescribes has been turned into a series of easy-to-read dashboards, so any patient or health service decision maker can explore it - supporting safer, more efficient prescribing.
In addition, recent research by the department using data from 398 GP practices in England (equivalent to 2.5 million patient years of observation) showed that clinical workload for GPs in England had risen by 16% between 2007 - 2014, as well as several other important insights into patterns of GP consultations in England.