How information analytics can help researchers and clinicians

Dr. David Neal talks about the need for personalized tools to stay current, connect with peers, find relevant information and solve health challenges

David Neal presentation
David Neal, CBE, FMedSci, FRCS, Senior VP of Global Academic Research at Elsevier and Professor of Surgical Oncology at the University of Oxford, presents at the Academic Publishing in Europe conference in Berlin.

The amount of scientific knowledge being created is huge, with growth estimated to be doubling every nine years, according to a 2014 study by researchers at the Max Planck Society and ETH Zurich.

“Nobody can keep up with it,” said Dr. David Neal, Senior VP of Global Academic Research at Elsevier and Professor of Surgical Oncology at the University of Oxford. “If I look to my own field, no individual can keep up with the genetics of prostate cancer. The idea that a single doctor can keep up with that field is a thing of the past – that is, without the help that companies like ours can bring.”

Speaking at the Academic Publishing in Europe (APE 2018) conference in Berlin, Dr. Neal examined the question of what publishers with scale and resources can do to help researchers and clinicians stay current, connect with their peers, find the right information to help them with their research, and solve the many challenges affecting the health of populations across the globe:

Researchers worry about keeping up to date, finding the right partners, peer review. We can help them do these things. We need to continue looking at ways to provide information analytics to help scientists do what they do, through tools involving natural language processing. It needs to be personalized. If I’m sitting there as an expert in a domain, I want information pushed to me that’s relevant. We have to do better in providing knowledge in a way that can be more easily assimilated.

With almost 40 years in full-time academia and professorships in Oxford, Newcastle and Cambridge, Dr. Neal speaks from experience. He has seen how developments in multiple areas of medicine changed how he was performing surgeries and how knowledge of those developments was disseminated throughout his profession.

Dr. David Neal presents Elsevier’s perspective on how we can help academic researchers and clinicians respond to the challenges they face.

At the conference, he presented Elsevier’s perspective on how we can work with academia and clinicians to respond to these various challenges. Many sectors have been impacted by the use and re-use of data and better analytic capabilities to improve quality and performance.

“A high-quality data set is an important scientific output,” Dr Neal explained. “In my own field, where we’re doing a lot of work sequencing the genome of people with prostate cancer, pulling those datasets together is hugely important. One of the things I’ve learnt is that to answer the questions of real importance, you need datasets not of thousands but of hundreds of thousands.”

By taking the data, making it available through platforms such as Mendeley Data and layering on analytics and artificial intelligence-related technologies such as natural language processing and machine learning, Elsevier can help academic researchers and clinicians address the many health problems facing populations around the world:

  • With people living longer, frail elderly people with multiple morbidities and prescriptions frequently being admitted to emergency departments.
  • An increase in obesity and type 2 diabetes.
  • Healthcare inflation, with costs rising about 8 percent a year due to new technologies and new drug development (cancer, transplantation and rare diseases).
  • Cost of medical errors: a study of 1,000 hospital deaths 10 years later found that 5% of deaths were preventable, largely due to poor monitoring (31%), diagnostic errors (30%) and poor drug or fluid management (21%). Extrapolating nationally, that means about 11,859 adult preventable deaths in hospitals in England.
  • Unwanted variation in care.

Dr. Neal takes questions from the audience.

Dr. Neal noted that advanced clinical decision support based on the implementation of best current knowledge can reduce error and reduce unwarranted variation. This is clearly an area where healthcare could be improved in the near future. “Decision support embedded in the workflow will be a big deal,” he explained. “For those of involved in providing healthcare informatics, reducing diagnostic error, reducing unwanted variation in care, AI-led approaches to embedding pathways in the clinical process are very important.”

“We can make a real difference,” Dr. Neal said. “The reason I came into Elsevier is because I was passionate about using knowledge-based healthcare (and) knowledge-based research so that we can make health a better thing and the world a better place.”

Watch Dr. Neal's presentation

This video was sponsored by Academic Publishing in Europe (APE). It runs for 26 minutes.


Written by

Christopher Capot

Written by

Christopher Capot

Christopher Capot heads up external and internal communications for Elsevier's health, education and corporate R&D businesses. He has been a public relations and media relations professional at agencies and corporations for more than 20 years. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper journalist, last working as a business reporter at the New Haven Register in Connecticut. He works in Elsevier's New York office.


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