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NHS England to extend use of AI to prevent missed appointments


Mark Say Managing Editor

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NHS England is planning to extend its use of AI to reduce the number of missed appointments and free up staff time in elective care.

It said that, following a successful pilot at Mid Suffolk and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, it plans to deploy the technology at 10 more trusts.

The software has been designed by technology company Deep Medical and a frontline NHS worker to predict likely missed appointments through algorithms and anonymised data. It breaks down the reasons someone may not attend referring to external factors, such as weather and traffic, and offers back-up bookings.

The appointments are then arranged for the most convenient times for patients. An example is providing evening and weekend slots to people less able to take time off from a working day.

The system also implements intelligent back-up bookings to ensure no clinical time is lost.

Big savings

NHS England said the six-month pilot produced a to a 30% fall in non-attendances, with 377 ‘did not attends’ (DNAs) preventing and an additional 1,910 patients seen. It has been estimated that this could save the NHS £27.5 million a year.

It also used AI to look at DNAs – which are more common among those with high deprivation scores – and identified a spike in last minute cancellations after two SMS reminders had been sent. It found that messaging patients 14 days before an appointment and a follow-up four days before was most effective, as it meant they could cancel earlier and re-book the appointment in plenty of time.

As a result, the trust saw their DNAs in this subset of patients drop from 10% to 4%, and they are now looking at expanding process mining to theatres to see where they can make efficiencies and improvements there.

More money for care

Dr Vin Diwakar, national director for transformation at NHS England, said: “Not only can these technologies help to free up doctors’ time to treat more patients and reduce waiting times for planned care, it means a significant amount of money can be invested in frontline care rather than lost to missed appointments.

“And the work being done across the country through these AI pilots shows that initiatives like this can deliver results in a short period of time, while also supporting patients to take control over their own care and help to better understand and reduce health inequalities.”

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