Graph technology makes Gartner Top 10 Trends in Data & Analytics for 2021

a healthcare knowledge graph

An example of a knowledge graph from the Healthcare Graph Working Group (illustrative only)

Graph relates everything – Graph forms the foundation of modern data and analytics with capabilities to enhance and improve user collaboration, machine learning models and explainable AI. Although graph technologies are not new to data and analytics, there has been a shift in the thinking around them as organizations identify an increasing number of use cases. In fact, as many as 50% of Gartner client inquiries around the topic of AI involve a discussion around the use of graph technology.

Graphs in Healthcare

As computing and storage costs decline and new applications of AI in healthcare emerge, graph technologies are increasingly seen as the bridge from the old world of data silos to a new world where data exists as a valued asset independent of the systems that use it. Today’s systems are designed to capture patient transactions. Tomorrow’s Healthcare systems will need to support a lot more patient data and along with AI, help clinicians make effective use of that data to improve patient outcomes, reduce waiting lists and meet heightened expectation of a 21st century NHS.

From e-commerce and social media to clinical support

Graph databases are already widely used by search engines and social media networks such as Linked in and e-commerce sites such as Amazon. They make it possible for us to search for and find ‘things’ (such as contacts and products) in less than a second and from dynamic directories and catalogues containing millions of items. Hospital systems may be smaller, but their data are much more complex. With increasingly sophisticated patient diagnostics and interventions we also face a tsunami of new data about ‘things’ in the healthcare system, including genomic and personal lifestyle data. Existing patient record systems and technologies will not scale to meet these new challenges, so we need graph technology as an alternative.

A digital NHS

One of the key data challenges we face in the UK NHS is fragmentation – of data, of systems, of information and of collective know-how and knowledge. This is as true in the clinical domain as it is in the administrative domain. This causes lots of problems for clinical and administrative staff, one of which is timely access to accurate and relevant data when they need it, rather than when their systems or analytics teams can provide it.

With data volumes growing exponentially this problem will get worse. And demands and expectations of the NHS will continue to grow faster than we can recruit and train clinical, care, and analytical staff creating a widening gap. Add to this the need to adopt AI and improve research access to data and its clear we need a better way to capture, store, analyse and use data as the foundation of a new digital NHS.

What if we could join-up internal data from multiple hospital patient and clinical systems with external clinical knowledge databases and present it in a visual and engaging ways would that be useful for clinicians?

Or ask complex queries that can’t be asked today and get answers in seconds?

Or to make all this siloed data available to AI so it can quickly and consistently produce trusted results?

Graphs are Visual, Collaborative, Intuitive and Agile

Graph databases and their visualisation and query tools are the opportunity to capture and visualise knowledge about the NHS world as it really is, rather than the way it is captured and made available in today’s systems. And they are graphical and intuitive so much easier to develop collaboratively with end-users, as well as to quickly add new data as new data arrives. Covid-19 is a great example of this need and challenge. Couple these Graph capabilities with a new generation of no-code and lo-code platforms and we can then quickly develop and evolve applications locally and reduce dependence on existing system vendors to make changes for us.

Graphs can help unleash a dormant NHS data asset

Graphs are one foundational pillar of a more open and digital NHS. Along with the cloud, modern data stacks and AI, they can improve patient outcomes, increase productivity, and meet growing societal expectations of the NHS in the 21st century. Together these technologies can unleash the value of an under-valued NHS asset – its data asset.