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New research to harness data and address NHS pressures

New research is looking to harness the power of data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to pin-point chokepoints in the health system, subsequently understand why they arise, and ultimately develop innovative ways of overcoming them.

Funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research, the research is from Health Data Research UK and will include projects that, amongst other things, are:

  • Aiming to reduce ambulance waiting times.
  • Investigating the effects of cold and damp homes, and thus the effects on the NHS.
  • Using hospital data to evaluate and therefore expedite patient flow in emergency departments.
  • Deploying machine learning techniques to predict spikes of the common bug Respiratory Syncytial Virus.

Health Data Research UK’s Chief Scientist, Professor Cathie Sudlow, said: “As a doctor who has previously treated patients in the emergency department, I am all too aware of the enormous challenges faced by the healthcare system this winter. It’s critical that we use data rapidly, securely and responsibly to support the NHS, its workers, and the patients who rely on it for their care.

“By using existing data, research teams, and infrastructure these projects are able to respond rapidly to evolving pressures on the NHS. Within three months, they will have honed in on key pain points in the health service, and developed evidence-led recommendations on how best to manage resources and prevent unnecessary illness through the winter.”

The studies are scheduled to start this month and have been specifically developed to rapidly generate results, with published findings expected by the end of the year.

King’s College London’s Dr Martin Chapman, who is leading a project looking at the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on public health and the NHS, added: “There isn’t enough emphasis placed on the impact of the health of children and young people on the NHS during winter. Living in cold, damp and mouldy homes leads to chest conditions in children and mental health problems in adolescents, and rising energy costs mean more people than ever are living with heat poverty.

“We’re investigating the effectiveness of interventions like support for energy bills on the health of young people by using Artificial Intelligence to digitally mimic their household environments and evaluate the impact of simulated interventions. This will help guide future policy changes to improve health conditions, reduce inequalities, and in turn reduce pressures on NHS services.”

The full list of the projects being run is available here.

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