Data Science colleagues help to bring UHDB to the forefront of the digital age with AI and automation programmes | Latest news

Data Science colleagues help to bring UHDB to the forefront of the digital age with AI and automation programmes

In an era of rapid technological advancement, colleagues at UHDB are leading the charge in harnessing the power of data science, intelligent automation, and artificial intelligence (AI) to drive positive change to patients and communities across Derbyshire and Staffordshire.

Across the world, AI and intelligent automation is already used in many fields and has developed and grown considerably in recent years. AI refers to computer systems that can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence, such as learning, problem-solving and decision-making. Intelligent automation combines AI with automation technologies to streamline processes and allow this technology to carry out tasks with minimal human intervention.

Led by James Bassinder, Assistant Director at Data Services, and Tim Reilly, Deputy Head of Data Science, the Data Science and Intelligent Automation (DSIA) team was formed in Autumn 2021 to utilise our colleagues' expertise and ingenuity in these emerging and increasingly advanced technologies, positioning UHDB at the forefront of their use within healthcare.

Through the strategic use of data science, intelligent automation and AI, the team is developing digital and technological capabilities to reduce waste, increase efficiency and enhance patient care. Combining traditional healthcare analytics with cutting-edge innovation and academic research methods, the team hopes to establish UHDB as a centre of excellence for DSIA in the Midlands.

This builds upon existing work taking place at the Trust to make digital, forward-looking enhancements to our services - allowing the care we deliver to our patients to be even safer. This includes the procurement of a new electronic patient record (EPR) system called Nervecentre, being selected as one of only a handful of hospital trusts in the UK to use the Stryker MAKO robot in our Trauma and Orthopaedic services, the roll-out of the tattoo-free Surface Guided Radiotherapy (SGRT) treatment in our Oncology services, and much more.

Explaining how the use of DSIA supports both patient care and experience as well as the effectiveness of colleagues, Tim said by automating routine tasks and streamlining workflows, these technologies allow clinicians to focus more on direct patient care, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes and experience - whilst simultaneously improving the wellbeing of colleagues.

Tim continued: "What I like to say is that this allows our staff to more effectively perform the role they applied for, versus the role they may currently do where other management and administrative tasks can occupy more time than they'd like.

"By leveraging AI and intelligent automation, healthcare providers can access real-time insights and personalised interventions, leading to better outcomes for patients - directly supporting patient safety and experience by enabling more accurate and timely decision-making, and freeing up even more time for our colleagues to focus on clinical duties."

James agreed, adding that these "small steps towards the future make it a very exciting time for the organisation" in placing the Trust at the forefront of this emerging technology in healthcare, with our patients being the ultimate beneficiaries.

Explaining further, James said: "Some of the models we've helped create focus on demand and capacity, which ultimately helps the organisation at every level to provide the care that our communities deserve, even at times of extremely high pressure.

"We understand the challenges NHS organisations like ours face, and the work we do both attempts to address these, while also facing up to potential risks that can occur for emerging technologies. As a team we review the completeness, accuracy, and potential bias of all data, making sure that we build these risk assessments into the models to give our clinical colleagues using the technology confidence that they can make the most timely, well-informed, and thorough decisions based on the data it provides.

"As we strive to establish ourselves as a centre of excellence, we want to raise our profile both in our organisation and our healthcare system as a major force in 'working smarter'. Beyond our walls, other trusts are looking to us as inspiration, and we have built several frameworks that allow for full transparency of our processes to help others follow in our path. This will also help to inform a broad range of colleagues to implement the tools and learning we've achieved so far."

UHDB has a five-year plan in place for the use of DSIA, in conjunction with senior Digital Services colleagues, to work on a cost-neutral basis to look at the long-term benefits of the technology to patients and staff alike, while ensuring immediate improvements to the care patients receive.

The implementation of DSIA is already seeing positive results in areas such as the everyday management of patient data to medication checks and discharge processes. By automating routine tasks and leveraging predictive analytics, clinical colleagues can make informed decisions in real-time while freeing up their capacity to directly care for patients.

Over the past 16 months, the DSIA team have made significant strides in integrating these technologies into everyday operations. From supporting Covid-19 response efforts to introducing modular forecasting tools (an algorithm that can help predict the ways in which individuals in our community will use our services), their work has been instrumental in driving efficiency and innovation.

One example of the effective use of this technology is within our Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) team, where a clinical automation has been set up which has helped increase clinical safety for our patients, continuing into their care they receive after they are discharged from one of our sites.

This automation technology has been set up to read blood test information for all patients within our care, submitted by pathology colleagues (the testing of samples, such as blood and bodily tissue, to help diagnose conditions), in order to detect the presence of an acute kidney injury. If that is detected, renal colleagues are alerted without the continual human analysis of samples and tests. In addition, the automation technology automatically completes a section within a patient's discharge notes by the time they leave our hospitals, which helps inform their GP and other relevant aftercare organisations and individuals that they have been diagnosed with AKI.

Dr Nitin Kolhe, Consultant Nephrologist at UHDB, explained the benefits of this technology in his department, saying: "These technologies are increasing our efficiency and improving the quality of care in a number of ways, whether that's assisting physicians in reviewing medications, arranging appropriate follow-up care, or enhancing care in a community setting. As a result, we hope this will help to reduce readmissions.

"Colleagues and patients alike can be confident that AKI information on discharge summaries is precisely recorded, accompanied by appropriate guidance for primary care physicians. By eliminating the need for manual entry of certain data by our clinical colleagues, our team can make timely, informed decisions and increase their capacity to provide direct care to our patients."

Looking ahead, the DSIA team remain committed to supporting the delivery of better, broader, and safer healthcare through continued collaboration and innovation. The integration of data science, intelligent automation, and AI represents a new age in healthcare delivery. By harnessing the power of these technologies, UHDB is not only driving efficiency and innovation but also improving patient outcomes and enhancing staff wellbeing - leading the way as an NHS organisation in using technological solutions to the benefit of the communities we serve.

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