Stroke HIT to develop linked database that could transform clinical decision-making around stroke treatment

  • 25th May 2021

Bristol Health Partners’ Stroke Health Integration Team (HIT) has received funding to create a scalable database of routinely collected NHS stroke clinical and imaging data. This resource, funded by a health data science grant from the University of Bristol’s Elizabeth Blackwell Institute, is a first step towards making it easier for clinicians to make decisions about the best treatments for everyone suffering a stroke.

Stroke treatment involves time consuming, costly and potentially harmful procedures, including clot removal (thrombectomy), vascular surgery and brain surgery. It is important that treatment decisions are tailored to each patient to ensure the best possible outcome.

One of the big challenges clinicians face when deciding how to treat a stroke patient is having to mentally recall and weigh up all the relevant data – especially imaging and clinical information – from many different sources. If information about everyone’s medical history and treatment was held in one place, it would enable future artificial intelligence (AI) research to predict the consequences of different treatment decisions, which could potentially transform how clinicians make decisions.

This funding will allow an interdisciplinary team of researchers and clinicians, with expertise in stroke medicine, surgery and computer science, to produce a repository of linked, routinely collected NHS stroke and clinical data. This data, which will be anonymised to protect people’s identity, will be drawn from North Bristol NHS Trust, which holds records for around 4,000 people who suffered a stroke in the last five years, as well as brain and neck imaging data and stroke national audit (SSNAP) data.

The repository will be an important resource for researchers locally, nationally and internationally, for example to develop predictive models and algorithms to support clinical decision-making around stroke treatment.

Brainomix Ltd, which undertakes AI image analysis to support clinical decision-making in stroke patients, is a commercial collaborator on this project.

Dr Phil Clatworthy, Consultant Stroke Neurologist at North Bristol NHS Trust and Director of Bristol Health Partners’ Stroke HIT, said:

“I can’t tell you how exciting this project is. By bringing together such a large amount of data, with everyone’s identity protected, for the first time we will be able to carry out artificial intelligence research relating to stroke prevention and treatment using our own local NHS data. The tools generated through this research will in effect bring the experience of treating thousands of patients to bear on every individual treatment decision faced by a clinician. What’s more, it means that as much as possible of the information collected when someone visits hospital with a stroke can be used to benefit others.

“Working with a commercial partner will allow us to develop tools that can be delivered across the NHS and potentially in other countries too. I would like to reassure people that these companies will never have access to identifiable data, nor will they own any of this data.

“Once we have successfully created this repository, the next step will be to connect to data from general practice and social care services, as well as other hospitals, which will greatly enhance our ability to develop effective tools to help prevent and treat stroke, helping us to fulfil the purpose of the Stroke HIT by preventing strokes and improving the lives of people affected by stroke.”