AbbVie has announced a new partnership with NorthWest EHealth, a company focussed on the innovative and trustworthy use of routinely collected healthcare data for clinical evaluation, in order to explore the underlying associations between autoimmune conditions.

The companies have stated that the collaboration will “harness” NorthWest EHealth’s proprietary FARSITE software, a cohort finding tool that utilises primary care data, to interrogate data from NHS general practices.

Harnessing the power of NHS data sets offers a “significant opportunity to expand our collective knowledge of disease and ultimately work together to raise standards of care” commented Alice Butler, AbbVie UK’s medical director. She continued to say that the company hopes “the partnership model we have developed with NorthWest EHealth could serve as a best practice exemplar for future industry-NHS collaborations.”

The project is being hailed as an example of the partnership approach envisaged by the UK Government’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy, which stresses the importance of collaboration to generate real-world data.

The question surrounding data sharing is a “deeply ethical one” explained Tim M. Jaeger, global head of diagnostics speaking at the Economist’s War on Cancer conference yesterday. “Data is pervasive to the entire patient journey, and you need to be humble enough to understand that the patient is at the very heart of the workflow”

The news comes shortly after a YouGov poll has revealed that the mass majority of NHS staff are not comfortable with the idea of “big tech” companies such as Facebook and Apple analysing their patient data.

The survey discovered that just 12% of healthcare professionals felt comfortable with the companies analysing their anonymised patient data, despite 81% thinking that general analysis of such data would help enable quicker diagnosis and more effective treatment.