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Forward Healthcare Awards 2021 finalists: five outstanding early adopters of technology

The Forward Healthcare Awards 2021, in association with CCube Solutions, provide us – and our panel of expert judges – the chance to recognise all the outstanding work taking place in the world of health and care.

The awards week begins on 6 September 2021 and marks the start of a week spent showcasing innovations, ideas, partnerships, pilots and more. We’ll announce the finalists and the winners and celebrate those that took part through a series of features, videos, and digital content.

We begin our awards season by taking a closer look at our ‘featured finalists’. Here are the submissions from the “Early adopter of the year” category, which tackle issues such as missed appointments, education, and fear of vaccines.

Cardiff and Vale University Health BoardEyecare without boundaries: A true shared care vision for patient benefit in Wales

For our first entry we are heading to Wales, where the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board is aiming to deliver “eye care without boundaries”.

A more joined-up way of working is being introduced to meet increasing demand in ophthalmic care, as well as the introduction of an operational ophthalmic Electronic Patient Record and Electronic Referral Portal, and the development of a new Teach and Learn Centre – called the NHS University Eye Care Centre – to ensure ophthalmic care is delivered in the most efficient way possible.

These together helped to deliver, in the wake of the first wave of the pandemic, the following:

  1. Five Ophthalmic and Diagnostic Treatment Centres (ODTCs) that were supported by qualified Optometrists to see more than 1,500 patients managed by Consultant Virtual Clinics.
  2. The Cardiff and Vale University Health Board moved 94 per cent of its Unscheduled Care patients from the Eye Hospital in four days, managed by Independent Prescribers in primary care, with virtual training. The outcomes of over 3,000 patients were updated onto OpenEyes EPR with a messaging fabric enabling questions and support to be provided.
  3. Valuable social space added in the Outpatient Suite, enabling consultants to see the more complex patients.

More than 1,400 patient questionnaires have been received from those accessing the services, with a large number requesting local treatment rather than at a hospital. The next phase of the project will support the treatment of more than 5,500 patients.

Health Education and Improvement Wales – professional judgement game

We’re staying in Wales for our second finalist, with Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW)’s “professional judgement game.”

HEIW explains the concept of the game as: “A scenario-based game that provides nurses with the opportunity to explore the use of professional judgement in a psychologically and physically safe environment.”

The game is called “Don’t panic stations” and was born out of a literature review that highlighted professional judgement as subjective and difficult to articulate. The work-stream then developed a board game for frontline nurses that hopes to help them “develop experiences and build on the practical wisdom that will enhance professional judgement.”

The project was developed and designed with the help of a student at Cardiff Metropolitan University and was showcased at the National Nurse Staffing Conference in Sept 2019. The game is scenario-based, and players are tasked with building a ward using a wide range of components, before several patients with differing complexity are introduced, and other patient information is included alongside several staff of various bands. The scenarios present the player with an opportunity to make more complex choices, and offers a platform for questions.

The game is still in the development process and, although the project started as a board game, there are now plans for Health Education and Improvement Wales to convert it into a digital application. Staff responded to the game with positive feedback, and it’s hoped it can be used by other healthcare professionals in the future.

Vita Health GroupPiloting the innovative use of virtual reality (VR) technology to maximise COVID-19 vaccine uptake in people with needlestick phobia

For our third entrant into the category we head to London, and the Vita Health Group, with the aim of addressing “needlephobia”.

In late 2019, Vita Health Group approved a small pilot to use Psious (a VR technology) as a face-to-face therapy aid, adhering to National Institute for Health and Care Excellent guidance.

The technology was first introduced in the Basildon and Brentwood Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) Service.

The pilot began on 1 March 2021 and service users, who were identified as having a fear of needles, were taken through three 60-minute treatment sessions to familiarise themselves with the software, as well as a booster session before their vaccine appointment. On 15 March, the pilot was then also extended to the Kent and Medway IAPT service.

Since the pilot scheme began, 25 service users have accessed the VR technology to ease their fears of the COVID-19 vaccination, and eight have received their vaccine. As a result of the scheme, Vita Health Group now has the platform ready to expand VR technology across its IAPT portfolio.

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust and Meridian Health GroupConnected Health Network, Cardiology Pilot

Our next entrant in the early adopter category tackled the issue of overdue follow-up appointments in secondary care.

This led to the creation of a new infrastructure model of care, where primary and secondary care were working together as one clinical network. The idea came from a group of senior clinicians and leaders and was supported by Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust, as well as Meridian Health Group, one of three Primary Care Networks (PCN) in North East Lincolnshire. As a result, the Connected Health Network (CHN) was born.

The process involves GPs referring into the service using their own primary care clinical IT system, while the CHN administration system is jointly managed by admin staff from the PCN and secondary care. The admin team will carry out a digital literacy assessment with every patient and obtain their consent for how they would like to be contacted – such as by text, email, telephone, or letter.

Cardiology patients can liaise with a GP from the CHN by using real-time communication. The CHN also offers virtual appointments and, if further diagnostics are needed, the time and place of this appointment are communicated by the specialist, with support from a “live” admin assistant, which is provided by cardiology medical secretaries who ensure the primary and secondary care records are updated.

Dr Simon Thackray, the lead cardiologist for CHN, said of the new model of working: “It is a win-win for the patient, as well as the GP, as they have access to specialist advice to support in providing ongoing care. If they need specialist diagnostics, or to see a specialist, they can arrange that quickly and efficiently.”

Between July 2020 and May 2021, the pilot saw 633 patients, and every patient had a digital literacy assessment. The CHN has been working across the NHS, with teams in Humber Coast and Vale, to support their development of a similar CHN pilot.

For future planning, the CHN has chosen two main areas for development. In 2021/22, the pilot will be expanded into other specialist areas of medicine. CHN cardiology clinics have already commenced in a second PCN in North East Lincolnshire and are also due to commence shortly in the main PCN for the Goole area.

Alder Hey Children’s HospitalUsing AI to identify children who are unlikely to be brought for their hospital appointment

Our last entrant into the early adopter category has been submitted by Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, which is based in Liverpool.

The hospital aims to target missed appointments and said of the issue: “More than eight million outpatient appointments were missed in England in 2018-19, costing around £1 billion, and 15 per cent of the missed appointments were found in children up to the age of 19 years old.”

The AI project hopes to address the risk of paediatric patients missing their appointments based upon information collected on children, their environment and their primary caregivers.

The AI used 50 risk factors to assess the missed appointments, and the final use of the model achieved a 74 per cent accuracy rating based on an unseen dataset of over 135,000 appointments.

The model was piloted in July 2021 for four weeks, and patients with a relatively higher probability of not attending their appointment were to be contacted via parents/guardians or sent a reminder. Patients identified as highly likely to not attend could be investigated further for signs of neglect or other safeguarding issues.

To find out the winning submission from our five fantastic finalists after announcement, or to view more Forward Healthcare Awards content, visit our dedicated channel.