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Looking forward to Birmingham 2018: Information technology and colorectal practice - an interview with Professor Angus Watson

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 11:02
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In a series of interviews, we will be previewing this year’s ACPGBI annual meeting in Birmingham, 9-11 July. We talked to Professor Angus Watson (Consultant General and Colorectal Surgeon at Raigmore hospital, Inverness and Director of Research, Development & innovation for NHS Highland) who will be organising a session on the influence of information technology on colorectal practice and how it can be harnessed to improve research, as well as outcomes for patients.

“This is the first time the ACPGBI has decided to host an Information Technology Innovation Session at its annual meeting. IT innovation is now touching every aspect of a colorectal surgeon’s practice,” Professor Watson began. “Whether you are engaged in social media or using technology as a means for professional accreditation, or you are using IT to collate patient outcomes or to encourage trial recruitment, information technology is very much at the forefront of everything we do.”

Colorectal surgeons, in particular, have embraced social media and are using it as a platform not only to engage patients but also to talk about their research and ideas. Whilst this is a good thing, he cautioned that there are some downsides to social media that colleagues should be aware of and those issues will be discussed during the meeting.

“I think IT has the potential to transform the way we collate patient outcomes and experiences; it is important we communicate to delegates how the technology can be utilised for improving these outcomes and how it can influence the conduct of research”. Professor Watson added; “another important recent development has concentrated on a patient’s ability to access their electronic data or records. I personally believe it is the patient’s data, not the NHS’s. Hopefully, we can stimulate a lively debate about how we can move from a patriarchal healthcare system to one in which the patient is very much in control – and I see technology innovation as a means to achieve that endpoint. The Information Technology Innovations Session will examine the possibilities of how we can, as a profession, embrace technology which will move us forward in terms of research, collaboration, communication and innovation.”

He explained how machine learning and predictive analytics are data manipulation techniques that could be utilised to discover disease relapse or response to treatment. These technologies, which are increasingly being utilised in healthcare, could prove particularly valuable for colorectal patients.

The Information Technology Innovations Session will include a host of speakers and presenters who are experts in their field including Mr Neil Smart, a Consultant Colorectal Surgeon (Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital) will talk about the pros and cons of social media and Dr Charlie Lees, a consultant gastroenterologist (Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, and senior lecturer at the University of Edinburgh) who will outline how he uses social media and infographics to communicate with patients with inflammatory bowel disease. He will talk about how you can harness social media to recruit to trials.

“We also have a team from IBM-Watson who are going to demonstrate how computational, data mining, machine learning, predictive analytics and case-based reasoning can really steer healthcare in a new and exciting dimension,” he said. “We are particularly delighted that an exciting new start up company, Proximie, will present on the power of virtual reality in education and surgical training’

Professor Watson emphasised that the Information Technology Innovations Session is not only for those with an interest in information technology, but for every delegate as they interact with IT daily as part of their job. He said it is essential that all delegates recognise the pitfalls and opportunities that IT presents, particularly as the technology evolves and becomes an increasing part of their practice.

“In my life time, IT has evolved to the extent that there is more computational power in a kitchen toaster than there was to land a lunar module on the surface of the moon,” he concluded. “The current power of information technology is phenomenal, and I believe we are only just scratching the surface of what we could use it for in healthcare. I look forward to seeing everyone in Birmingham and welcoming them to a really unique and refreshing session that is applicable to each and every single discipline within our association.”