Opensource Data Tools for NHS

By Roberts Klotins | July 22, 2018

High Quality Open Source Data Analysis Tools Use in NHS Setting

This is a pilot project to demonstrate applicability of Open Source data collection and analysis tools in NHS context. No patient identifiable data have been used.


R - statistical programming environment is a statistical computing environment that has been developed for over 20 years and is available on any major university campus computers. It shines at data analysis and visualization. Over the recent years it has been dubbed the lingua franca of data science; it is being widely used by major universities, businesses, especially finanical institutions all over the world. Any major online course providers such as Coursera, edX, Udemy and more offer free and paid courses to learn it. It is a requirement for the Microsoft Professional Program in Data Science. Every conceivable statistical analysis or data visualization can be set up in R thanks to CRAN (The Comprehensive R Archive Network) - which not only distributes R, but also maintains a catalog of high quality data science add-on packages for R, easily available when you need them. R can make use of data in most thinkable formats - from Excel to big data databases.

Rstudio at is an open source IDE (Integrated Development Environment) for R. Although it is not necessary to be able to use R, it makes development of your project easier with the instant visualization, integrated code completion and access to help all accessible from one interface.

LimeSurvey at is an open source survey tool. Think of surveymonkey on steroids that you can fully control yourself. It allows creating and managing surveys of any complexity and runs on the standard AMP stack (Apache, MySQL and PHP) - that can be run on Linux, Windows or Mac. It is easy to setu up and update, but if you do not want your dedicated server - you can run on your ISP provided hosting platform for as cheap as £14 per year.

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Thanks to the open source nature of these mature projects they use standard information exchange mechanisms and can easily operate together. For example you can get the very latest data from your survey into R and produce a professional quality report or visualization in less than 10 seconds.

Patient feedback collection

This project provides a computer screen whereby patients can quickly and anonymously leave their feedback on your service. To get a report all it takes is to connect your laptop to the survey box and click a button - two PDF reports are created in a few seconds.

Be your own therapist

This project has been developed together with a patient in CBT. It is typical for someone to maintain symptom diaries as the therapy progresses in CBT. We agreed that the patient would spend 5 minutes per evening to enter data on how they felt in an online excel spreadsheet on his phone and send this spreadsheet to me every Monday. Only the patient and I know what the symptom codes stand for - the data is anonymous and safe.

Collecting feedback from educational events

Surveys are easy to set up in LimeSurvey and this together with the summarising and reporting capabilities or R makes it a perfect tool to obtain feedback as soon as your conference or class is over.

Data about on-call

Perhaps there are problems in the on-call rota that are difficult to spot, but affect life of doctors significantly. We made a data collection interface for the mobile phone that allows to give evaluation of parameters for on-call right after the shift. This takes maybe two minutes to complete on the doctor’s mobile phone.

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