Finola Higgins

Finola Higgins is the Research Informatics Programme Manager and works within our NIHR Guy’s and St Thomas’ Biomedical Research Centre. Finola works to support our clinical researchers in delivering our COVID-19 Data Lake work. She works to coordinate the data that goes into the Data Lake, works with technical teams to ensure that the necessary functionality is available to enable interrogation of the data within the data lake, and also ensure that researchers have appropriate access to data sets that they need to do their research.

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic Finola worked as part of the team looking at how we could make the sharing of Electronic Health Records data easier between departments and clinicians.

Electronic health records are used to record individual patient data within the hospital so that it can be shared securely and efficiently with all clinical personnel involved in the patient’s treatment across different departments within the hospital. The team were doing this by pooling together data from lots of EHRs into one secure place called a ‘Data Lake’.

At the start of the pandemic the team took the decision to make the data pooled in the data lake available for COVID-19 research. The data lake now contains over 6,000 records of COVID-19 patients. By anonymising all EHRs within a COVID-19 Data Lake, the researchers working on different COVID-19 studies can gain access to a very large patient dataset without the need to seek patients’ consent for each separate study. This means research to describe, track and compare the progression of COVID-19 can happen quicker than would have been possible otherwise. It also means that our clinicians and clinical researchers have access to anonymised data on all patients who had been treated and those that are currently receiving treatment for COVID-19 at Guy’s and St Thomas’. This is helping us to improve the care that we provide and outcomes for COVID-19 patients faster.

Finola said “It is very exciting to be working as part of a multi-disciplinary team, and I feel very fortunate to have been able to contribute to the team’s efforts in its research response to COVID-19. It is very rewarding to know that by supporting the team to deliver this work, I contributed to improving the care and outcomes for COVID-19 patients.”