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An introduction to data and information in health and social care
An introduction to data and information in health and social care

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1 What this course is about

You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data.

Daniel Keys Moran

Computers used to be mysterious boxes that were hidden away in large, secure buildings in major companies and government organisations. The average person came in contact with them only in the form of stories in the press, or printed statements they received from their bank or gas supplier.

All that has changed dramatically over the last few decades. Today, most people experience computers not as remote machines producing bills or directing space flight (though they still do these things), but in two ways:

  1. as a medium that combines graphics, video, sound and text to impart information and a means of enabling us to carry out our banking, our shopping and make appointments
  2. as ubiquitous but hardly noticeable means of controlling everything from toasters to air traffic.

Whether or not you realise it, you are not only surrounded by computers, but you have a persona created by the data associated with you. Some of this data you create yourself, consciously. Some is created when you open a bank account, enrol on a course, shop using a loyalty card, use an electronic healthcare record (EHR) and so on.

Your persona consists of all of this data, whether you're aware of it or not. That is what a ‘persona’ is: a ‘picture’ of you created by various collections of data about you, such as your finances, shopping habits, interests.

How much of this persona of yours is public, whether the data it contains is correct, and whether it should be held in the public domain are all things you need to be aware of.

You’ll now think about personas in the health and social care system.

Activity 1 Data collection

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Mrs Craig is a 76-year-old woman who has fallen at home. Begin thinking about all the people and places Mrs Craig will come into contact with: on her journey from home, within the hospital, to discharge home, to the care of community services. What data will be created about her and by whom, where will it be stored and how, and who will access it for particular reasons?


A number of people will collect data about Mrs Craig:

  • Mrs Craig will have data collected by the ambulance service when they attend to her call at home.

  • The A&E department will collect data within their computer system.

  • The doctors and nurses will collect information from Mrs Craig on the ward.

  • The operating theatre staff will record data on their computer system during her operation to repair her fractured hip.

  • The physiotherapist will document more information during rehabilitation.

  • The district nurse, occupational therapist and perhaps the social work team will create more records on their systems when Mrs Craig returns home.

  • Mrs Craig also has a record with her GP.

All of this data, collected by many people on her journey, will create a huge amount of information about Mrs Craig. Each member of staff will use it in different ways because of the job they do. The data is not often shared.

You might like to ask yourself at this point: how aware were you, before this page and activity, that so much information about you could exist in the public domain?