20 July 2020

Millions of people across the North West Coast will benefit from improved health thanks to a project aimed at better managing patient data.

Connected Health Cities, which involved the Innovation Agency, was a £20m, four-year pilot funded by the Department of Health to unite local health data and technology to improve care for patients in the North of England.

The project put patients at the heart of how their health data was used, with great success. It was co-ordinated by the Northern Health Science Alliance and delivered through regional centres covering the North East and North Cumbria, the North West Coast, Yorkshire and Humber and Greater Manchester.

Connected Health Cities has delivered outstanding results, saving lives, protecting capacity within the NHS worth many millions of pounds per year and improving the care of millions of patients.

An impact report has been published demonstrating how the project has:

  • Linked 10 million health records in the region
  • Created at least £30 million of investment
  • Shown early indications at least £150 million worth of cash savings is being made in the North of England’s NHS and social care every year.

In the North West Coast, Connected Health Cities was delivered by the Innovation Agency in partnership with AIMES Management Services, the University of Liverpool and Lancaster University. The focus was on three clinical pathways: chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), alcohol-related liver disease and epilepsy.

The partners developed a ‘Learning Health System’ which involved collecting, linking and analysing data and presenting information to staff to help them to plan and deliver care more effectively.

The Innovation Agency actively involved patients, helping them understand choices in sharing health information and developing a consent app for data-sharing preferences.

It also worked with industry and involved a number of local companies such as ORCHA health app organisation and the Hartree data centre.

AIMES provided the infrastructure and technical support to develop a trusted research environment where the data was housed and analysed.

Researchers at the University of Liverpool’s Health Data Laboratory used advanced statistical techniques to turn routinely collected data into insights to improve health services and developed algorithms to more accurately capture patient cohorts. The results were:

  • An extra 66 per cent of epilepsy-related admissions were identified when compared to just using the primary diagnosis code, now capturing more accurate average length of stay.
  • An extra 45 per cent more people with COPD currently being provided with NHS care being identified compared with the national analysis.
  • An extra 40 per cent of cases of alcohol-related liver disease being detected when compared with standard approaches for capturing data on emergency admissions meaning more patients are getting the right treatment.

Lancaster University led on workforce development, hosting PhD students and working with business informatics teams to upskill health professionals with digital skills to use data effectively to support improvements in patient care.

The Innovation Agency supported workforce development with digital coaching, developing a patient and public involvement group and working with people to gain trust for consent to use data, as well as working with industry to develop innovative tools to support clinicians and the health service.

The Connected Health Cities methodology is transferable to other chronic conditions and a toolkit has been developed to share it with local health systems.

The programme has been instrumental in providing the foundation for more work on building a trustworthy approach to using patient data to improve health in the region, including the Liverpool City Region Civic Data Trust which is currently being developed.

Innovation Agency Associate Director Dr Julia Reynolds said: “Connected Health Cities proved that using data that exists in the health and social care system in a smarter way can transform health and care, save lives and protect NHS resources in the NHS.

“This project has helped us gain a huge amount of learning for our region and allowed us to take big steps in developing our academic expertise, working collaboratively to support frontline staff in using data to make improvements to services, including gaining further funding to develop this work.

“It has also been an important lesson in building public trust and ensuring the patient’s voice is heard. We will be building on this important work and spreading our learning to other conditions in the future.”

Read the report here.

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