The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is taking a significant step in leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enhance patient care and reduce avoidable hospital admissions. By monitoring patients’ eating and drinking habits at home through sensors on everyday appliances like kettles and fridges, the NHS aims to identify concerning changes early on. This innovative approach, currently piloted in Buckinghamshire and Birmingham, uses AI and algorithms to assess patient habits and health history. The ultimate goal is to intervene with community-based care before conditions escalate, ultimately alleviating the strain on healthcare resources during the challenging winter months.
AI for early detection
The pilot programs in Buckinghamshire and Birmingham are employing AI to track patients’ eating and drinking behaviors through electronic sensors placed on kettles and fridges. These sensors detect changes that could signal health issues. When concerning changes are identified, care teams are promptly alerted, enabling them to reach out to patients and provide personalized preventative care. By intervening early, the NHS aims to prevent avoidable hospitalizations, particularly during the high-demand winter season.
Reducing “Avoidable” Admission
The NHS is actively working to reduce the number of “avoidable” admissions, especially during the winter season when healthcare demands typically surge. The integration of AI technology into patients’ daily lives, through appliances like kettles and fridges, represents a proactive approach to identify health concerns before they necessitate hospitalization.
Comprehensive patient care
In Somerset, four GP practices are conducting trials using a system that highlights patients with complex needs or those at risk of hospital admission. These patients are then contacted by healthcare workers who can offer preventative care, such as fall prevention support. This approach ensures that patients receive comprehensive care tailored to their specific needs, reducing the likelihood of emergency hospital visits.
Amanda Pritchard’s perspective
Amanda Pritchard, the Chief Executive of NHS England, emphasized the significance of these tech and data solutions in preparation for the winter season. She highlighted how NHS staff across the country are innovating by leveraging technology and AI to benefit patients and reduce the number of avoidable A&E attendances. These solutions identify high-risk or vulnerable patients early on, allowing healthcare teams to provide timely support, ultimately avoiding unnecessary hospital visits. Not only does this approach benefit patients by allowing them to receive care in the comfort of their homes, but it also eases the pressure on the NHS, particularly during challenging times.
Recent data has revealed that 7.7 million people are on NHS waiting lists in England, the highest number since records began in 2007. The utilization of AI and data-driven solutions represents an additional tool in the NHS’s arsenal to address these waiting lists and improve patient care.
In Birmingham, NHS teams are piloting an algorithm aimed at preventing thousands of hospital or GP visits. This algorithm predicts the top 5% of patients at risk of attending or being admitted to the hospital. By identifying these individuals early, healthcare staff can offer social care measures and support to prevent their health conditions from deteriorating. Over the next two years, the program hopes to prevent 4,500 unnecessary A&E visits, 17,000 overnight hospital stays, and 23,000 GP appointments.
Leveraging data and AI
Chris Holt, Chief Transformation Officer at Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS FT, stressed the importance of using data smartly and harnessing the power of AI to support high-risk patients who can remain well at home with the right support. By identifying complex patients early, the healthcare system can intervene sooner and provide personalized support to keep them healthy at home.
Government support for NHS resilience
The UK government has taken several steps to support the NHS’s efforts to provide adequate care during the winter season. These measures include financial incentives for local hospitals that excel in performance metrics, such as A&E waiting times and ambulance handover times. Additionally, social care “traffic control centers” have been introduced to expedite hospital discharges, more ambulances are on the road, and extra hospital beds have been made available.