Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been awarded £67,000 from the Health Foundation’s Advancing Applied Analytics programme to develop innovative new software which could transform NHS outpatient care. 

The PathAnalyse project will use sophisticated machine-learning tools and techniques to track 32 million datasets containing information about patient arrival times, length of consultations, duration of appointments and time needed to undertake clinical processes such as height and weight checks at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals’ outpatient departments.

Once evaluated, the data will help create a digital road map of the different stages of outpatient care so that senior staff in outpatient clinics can be supported to better understand current processes, waiting times and their impact on patient care.

The project, which is being run in partnership with researchers from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Computer Science and the National Institute for Health Research’s Devices for Dignity MedTech Cooperative, is one of ten being funded in the latest round of the Health Foundation’s Advanced Applied Analytics programme.

Two outpatient clinics at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals have been selected to show how the analysis could help care for patients: the antenatal care department at Jessop Wing and the rheumatology outpatient department.

Dr Steven Wood, Clinical Scientist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are delighted to have been given this opportunity to use our scientific and computing expertise to seek to better understand complex processes within the healthcare system. This is the first time an advanced modelling data system of this kind has been used in the NHS.”

The PathAnalyse project builds on previous collaborative work undertaken by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals’ Medical Physics team, and researchers at the University of Sheffield’s Insigneo Institute of in silico Medicine to monitor the patient’s journey through the outpatient clinic.

Dr Maria-Cruz Villa-Uriol, Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Sheffield, said: “This project brings together a team of researchers at the University of Sheffield with the scientific computing and informatics team at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals to work on real world solutions to the chain of events that need to happen for patients to receive prompt, efficient outpatient care.

“The new project will draw upon learning from an existing collaboration with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals to support the design of new strategies to optimise patient care within the NHS and generate transferrable methodologies for other parts of the health care system whilst contributing to increasing the analytical capability of the NHS.”

Lise Sproson, NHS Innovation Manager at NIHR Devices for Dignity Medtech Cooperative (D4D), said: “D4D are passionate about enabling patients, carers and clinicians to be involved in health technology development. It is vital to ensure that we have conversations with patients to seek their views on improvements to care, threading this into work to further co-create outpatient services of outstanding quality.”

The Sheffield project is due to commence in September 2019.