New software could help cut hospital admissions

New software, which will allow GP practice managers to improve healthcare for chronic illnesses including strokes, Alzheimer's and cancer, will be unveiled by scientists from The University of Manchester next week (13 & 14 March). Experts have devised a computer programme which analyses how many patients in a practice have suffered from different conditions over a particular time period and identifies those who might require hospital treatment in the future.

Against a back drop of a drive for NHS efficiency savings, they believe the software will help practice managers to spot patterns earlier and reduce the number of costly hospital admissions for conditions like strokes by providing early intervention treatments. The breakthrough, which is already being trialled at a North West hospital, is one of a number of health innovations going on display at the Europe's largest healthcare innovation event, the Healthcare Innovation Expo 2013, this month (March) held at the ExCeL Centre, London.

The software is part of the Greater Manchester Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) project. John Ainsworth, a Senior Research Fellow from The University of Manchester's Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, said the tool could lead to major changes in the way patients with certain conditions were treated. Known as COCPIT (Collaborative Online Care Pathway Investigation Tool), the software lets medics track patient journeys through the healthcare system and identify where care differs from guidelines.

"Our researchers have created an innovative software tool that enables health professionals to better understand the provision of healthcare services and opportunities for quality improvement," Mr Ainsworth, who is also part of the Manchester Academic Health Sciences Centre – a partnership between the University and six NHS Trusts which aims to help implement research and innovation into practice, said. "This will improve healthcare planning by identifying inconsistencies and inequalities in healthcare provision and allow healthcare professionals to specifically focus on illuminating social inequalities in care. The tool will aid assessment of the clinical outcomes and economic impacts of intervention strategies and potential changes to care pathways intended to improve patient care and public health."

Using the tool GPs, health professionals and commissioning organisations explore and analyse electronic health records. The tool allows professionals to:

  • Identify at-risk patients,
  • Audit current clinical practice,
  • Investigate data quality issues,
  • Explore inequalities in care.

Mr Ainsworth said: "By making it easier to explore electronic records, COCPIT helps clinicians and managers to understand patient populations, target service delivery, reduce work repetition and improve patient care."

One example might be that medics could re-trace the steps of patients who went on to have strokes to see whether their age, ethnicity, gender and socio-economic circumstances showed a common pattern. They could also look at any earlier identifying factors such as raised blood pressure and treat this, for example by offering medication, dietary and lifestyle advice.

More information: www.healthcareinnovationexpo.com/index.asp

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