Secondary Care

Search engine tool developed to identify potential liver disease

Funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research, the Predictive Health Intelligence team (a partnership of Somerset NHS Foundation Trust involving clinicians and IT specialists) hope to identify people who might be at a higher risk of liver disease, who show no symptoms.

The team has developed a search engine to allow GPs and clinicians to identify people who may be at risk, with the research programme set to identify 10 people who have blood test results going back over a few years that indicate they might benefit from further investigation.

Dr Tim Jobson, consultant at Somerset NHS FT, said: “Liver disease places a huge burden on the health of the nation with one in nine people in the UK suffering from the condition. It accounts for 26,000 premature deaths and 100,000 years of lost life each year. In recent years, the cost to the NHS was £6 billion annually – which counted for five per cent of its budget.

“Liver disease is often symptom-free and many of those who die from it don’t see a doctor until it’s too late for treatment. One-off blood tests don’t help because clinicians need to look at blood test results over time. And existing healthcare IT systems weren’t built to help doctors identify those suffering from conditions like liver disease in this way.

“This does not necessarily mean that the patient is ill, but that by looking at their historic blood tests they fall into a category where they are more likely to develop an illness in the years ahead. It is similar to the screening programmes we see for breast or bowel cancer: the trick is to find people before they are ill.”

Dr Mike Walburn, Somerset FT’s site director for Musgrove Park Hospital, added: “This project demonstrates an innovative approach to improving patient care, quality of life and adding years to life. In addition, it has potential to massively reduce the cost of healthcare delivery by diagnosing and treating liver disease far earlier than previously possible.”