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Interview: key challenges facing NHS execs and how analytics can help

In our latest interview we explore some of the key challenges facing NHS executives and how data, predictive analytics and insight can support to better manage patient flow, reduce waiting lists and support a reduction in stranded patients. We spoke with Professor Stephen Smith, former CEO Imperial College Hospitals London and current Strategic Healthcare Advisor at Draper & Dash (D&D) Healthcare and Chairman at East Kent NHS Foundation Trust and Orlando Agrippa, CEO, Draper & Dash.

What are NHS executive’s main priorities?

Professor Stephen Smith said, “as always, safety and quality are the most important priorities of any healthcare system, but a huge issue facing all such systems and especially the NHS is the ability for all of the different sectors to work better together to care for us all. This is however being made even more difficult with the daily pressure of an ageing population. To relieve the pressure on healthcare systems, solutions need all parts of the NHS to pull together as each effect the other.  In hospitals, we must improve A&E waiting times, decrease the time to diagnosis and treatment of cancer and begin to tackle the big waiting lists that have built up over recent years.’’

Orlando Agrippa, CEO, D&D Healthcare, commented that “the NHS undoubtedly has some of the most challenging performance standards in the world. More recently, providers have experienced significant challenges in having sufficient capacity to deliver elective and emergency patient care. The winter crisis also delivered an enormous blow to the NHS’ ability to manage patient flow and its capacity. This has created an aging elective waiting list with a growing number of patients waiting longer, with waits closer to 52 weeks as opposed to 18 weeks. In a recent report Dame Pauline Philip cites that nearly 350,000 patients spend more than three weeks in an acute hospital each year. Long stay patients account for 8% of admissions requiring an overnight stay, with an average length of stay of 40 days. Around one-fifth of beds are occupied by patients who have already been in a hospital for more than three weeks.

The NHS’ focus is firmly on emergency care (A&E), finances, cancer waits, elective waits and staffing; with a more magnified ambition on stranded and super-stranded patients, those patients waiting over 21 plus days in hospitals. The focus is to reduce the number of beds occupied by long-stay patients by 25%, freeing up at least 4,000 beds for the winter ahead. Many of these patients deteriorate because they are in a hospital for long periods and could be cared for in a home care setting.”

What role does Draper & Dash play?

Orlando Agrippa, stated that “in response to the stranded and super-stranded system challenge, we recently worked with a group of healthcare leaders to release some of great new features on our predictive patient flow platform for both existing and new customers. We fully appreciate that many hospitals have great IM teams focused on reporting and data submissions however what we bring is a real insight to the executive, clinical and delivery teams, which really matters. Our strong predictive capabilities help our healthcare provider partners to get ahead of the problem for next winter. We understand that we have a key role as a technology firm for the NHS specifically as it relates to improving patient flow and overall patient care of which stranded and super-stranded patients have now become a key challenge for the system.

We really care about patients, their experience and outcomes, that’s why at D&D Healthcare we focus on how we can help and evolve healthcare whilst remaining flexible and agile so we can respond to these challenges for our partners and patients.”

The ongoing challenge in relation to improving flow, cost and quality is to understand what changes need to be made to existing structures. D&D works with hospitals to understand their weak points and areas where they can improve their processes and culture in order to improve patient flow. We have seen the positive impacts of when hospitals get it right, from smoother running of systems, better job satisfaction of employees’ due to reduction in stress but more importantly it improves patient outcomes and allocation of scarce resources.

Professor Stephen Smith added “D&D provides one of the best systems for not only linking the widely recognised “silos” of the NHS but can then triangulate the performance of an organisation with their workforce and crucially the finance.  No healthcare system should be without this technology and D&D has the added advantage of presenting the highly complex data in a clear and meaningful way to managers, doctors and nurses wherever they are in the organisation.”