NHS appointment

AI expansion launched to tackle missed appointments

NHS England (NHSE) has announced the launch of an AI expansion in a bid to reduce the number of appointments marked as did not attends (DNAs) and free up staff time to tackle waiting lists.

Of the 124.5 million outpatient appointments last year in England, approximately eight million (6.4%) were DNAs, which costs the health service around £1.2bn over the year.

To combat this, NHSE is expanding AI software made by Deep Medical to 10 more trusts, after a trial at Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust saw the number of DNAs cut by nearly a third (30%) in six months.

Results from Mid and South Essex showed the AI prevented 377 DNAs during the pilot and 1,910 more patients were seen. The trust serves 1.2 million people and could save £27.5m annually if it continued the programme.

“…it means a significant amount of money can be invested in frontline care…”

The AI works by using data and algorithms to predict likely DNAs and instead offers patients appointment times that are convenient. Intelligent back-up bookings also minimise lost clinical time and maximise efficiency.

New initiatives to tackle DNAs have already cut the overall number by nearly half a million a year, but with the £3.4bn additional investment announced by Jeremy Hunt at this Spring Budget, NHSE expects hundreds of thousands of DNAs to be avoided every month.

NHSE’s national transformation director, Dr Vin Diwakar, said: “Not only can these technologies help to free up doctors’ time to treat more patients and reduce waiting times for planned care, it means a significant amount of money can be invested in frontline care rather than lost to missed appointments.”

AI pilots have shown that results can be achieved in a short period of time too, added Vin.

“…investment in digital and technology in the NHS will help transform healthcare…”

The world of digital health will be explored at a dedicated National Health Executive event, where healthcare leaders will discuss AI and its impact, how technology can address health inequalities, and what digital transformation means for the workforce.

“Embracing new technologies is something the Trust is passionate about, it also supports better access for people who are disabled and for working women,” explained Charlotte Williams, Mid and South Essex’s chief strategy and improvement officer.

Reducing DNAs has shown a real positive impact, added Charlotte.

NHS Providers’ deputy chief executive, Saffron Cordery, said trust leaders understand how investment in new technologies like AI could bring major benefits and any measures to reduce DNAs are welcome.

She added: "Last week's long overdue, but welcome Budget announcement of £3.4bn investment in digital and technology in the NHS will help transform healthcare for patients, improve access to services and free up staff time."

Image credit: iStock

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