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Sooraj Shah

Contributing Editor

Sooraj Shah is Contributing Editor of New Statesman Tech with a focus on C-level IT leader interviews. He is also a freelance technology journalist.

IT Leaders: Cindy Fedell, CIO of Bradford NHS Trust on big data, 5G and virtual wards

Within the last 12 months, Cindy Fedell, the CIO of Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, has seen much of her team’s hard work over the last four years culminate with the implementation of a full electronic patients record (EPR) system. This, coupled with the use of new business intelligence tools and a fresh analysis of internal performance, has meant that several strategies that began when Fedell started at the trust are finally bearing fruit.

Fedell tells NS Tech that the new EPR system has helped to improve the quality of the trust’s services because of access to new types of data.

“We had a patient administration system and we knew what patients we were treating and what we were treating them for, but we didn’t have data such as our turnaround time on sepsis diagnosis and the antibiotics associated with it. It’s a whole new world in terms of people with access to data they didn’t have before,” she says.

But new sources of data don’t necessarily help organisations – data governance and quality have to be considered to ensure that it is the right type of data being used.

“The NHS loves their data and they’ve put in loads of systems to get lots of data, but I would say that the patient administration system we had before was fit for data collection only, not for use of real-time data,” says Fedell.

This isn’t just a technology issue. When Fedell began her role in Bradford, she shadowed her employees, and analysed how they were working. It was clear to her that entering data was a secondary function.

“With EPR what we’ve done intentionally is not collect data for data’s sake but give people tools that are useful to them and then the data is a natural by-product,” she explains.

“For example, instead of saying we’re going to prescribe medication electronically so that we can have data and analyse it, we’ve said ‘here is a tool for electronic prescribing that helps because it has automatic dosing and safety benefits that clinicians love’.

“So then we can trust the data because they use it clinically; it isn’t an afterthought it is a by-product of their use,” she adds.

And while using EPR is a completely different way of working – with many paper processes replaced with digital alternatives – the trust’s 6,000 employees seem to be onside with the shift.

“Generally people are very happy using it, I haven’t come across anyone that doesn’t want to use it. We’re in a transitional phase, so it will take some time to find consistency,” says Fedell.

A 5G Future

As well as considering new software that can help Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Fedell has been looking at options to upgrade “very clunky, retrospective” big data systems that are focused on populations, to make them work in real-time.

In addition, Fedell has been looking at what benefits 5G tools could offer both patients and community workers.

“For example, we just started a new clinic for kids that are chronically ill and we want to give our community nurses some video capability so when they go out there, they can do assessments more robustly and we can keep those kids at home rather than coming in to the hospital and we’re looking to extend that our to other patients or wards,” says Fedell.

This, she believes, is building to ‘virtual wards’, where people can be treated – or at least engaged with – without leaving the home.

The concept was developed in the Croydon Primary Care Trust based in South London and others have since followed in Dorset, Dudley, Brent, Hillingdon, Bracknell and Nottinghamshire.