An artificial intelligence (AI) programme that can predict when people might miss appointments and offer back-up bookings is being piloted, the NHS has announced.
The project, which is being trialled at Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, uses algorithms and anonymised data to identify reasons why patients might not be able to attend – this could include the weather, traffic or people’s jobs.
Once potential did not attends (DNAs) are found, the AI then arranges alternatives dates; for example, if somebody is less able to take time off during the day, they will be given an evening or weekend slot. The system can also offer back-up bookings to make sure no clinical time is wasted.
NHS Chief Executive, Amanda Pritchard, said: “The NHS has been at the forefront of innovation for almost 75 years, adopting the latest technologies and treatments to ensure patients have the best possible experience.
“This new pilot is no different – it shows the NHS testing the latest technological advancements to address the real world challenges we face. The system will help ensure patients receive ‘smart’ appointments, that are convenient and fit into people’s increasingly busy lives.
“It is a win-win for patients and the NHS alike – it will help us to free up doctors’ time to treat more patients, save taxpayers’ money as well as helping to reduce waiting times.”
With an estimated eight million DNAs costing the health service approximately £1.2bn a year, the NHS believes, when used at full scale, the innovation can allow clinicians to see an extra 80-100,000 appointments annually, with it first serving Mid and South Essex’s population of around 1.2 million people. The technology will also be tested at five other trusts this year.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, added: “AI is transforming the way we deliver healthcare with faster, more accurate diagnoses.
“This pilot will take us even further, using ground-breaking software to track patients’ preferences and offer them appointments they are more likely to attend with 90% accuracy. Wider use of this technology could potentially save the health service hundreds of millions of pounds ever year and boost our efforts to cut waiting lists so patients can get the care they need more quickly.
“Pioneering approaches such as these will free up precious time for our doctors and nurses – with around 8% of appointments currently missed – while ensuring patients get the best medical advice when and where they need it.”