How Technology Helps Reduce Healthcare Backlogs



New technologies are being used in Ireland and the UK to speed up patient testing, improve medical care and digitize health records.

As healthcare waiting lists continue to grow, organizations are turning to new technologies to roll back the numbers.

Recent statistics claim that around one in four Irish citizens – around 1.3 million people – are on some form of healthcare waiting list.

The backlog in global healthcare has increased in recent years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Umang Patel is Microsoft UK’s director of clinical information and a practicing paediatrician. He said health care backlogs have “multiplied dramatically”.

“We basically lost two years of elective treatment,” Patel said in a blog post. “And the waiting lists are worse than ever.”

Patel said that despite the challenges, he remains “optimistic” because the technology is “much more advanced than we thought for our industry”.

“We knew we had to face these challenges eventually,” Patel said. “What’s interesting, though, is that a lot of the challenges that we didn’t know how to respond to were already met out of necessity.

“We didn’t know if people would use their phones and various technologies to interact with healthcare. But they did and it wasn’t as problematic as we thought.

A number of healthcare providers in Ireland have taken steps this year to adopt new technologies to reduce growing backlogs and improve patient care.

Mater Private Network recently announced an investment of 26 million euros to upgrade the medical records of all its hospitals and clinics in Ireland. A multi-disciplinary team aims to complete the roll-out of an electronic health record system by 2024, which will integrate patient records across the group’s network in Ireland.

In February, Tallaght University Hospital launched an electronic patient record system to help streamline patient information and speed up its services.

xWave: Accelerating Patient Testing

One Irish company working to reduce healthcare backlogs is xWave. Based at NovaUCD, this start-up has developed a clinical platform to support healthcare professionals in the selection of tests for patients.

Once medical staff enter information about a patient case, this platform presents them with “next step” action advice according to the latest evidence-based guidelines, such as an X-ray, MRI, a clinic appointment or a self-management plan.

Speaking to, xWave CEO Mitchell O’Gorman said healthcare providers typically consider increasing their capacity — like equipment or staff — to deal with healthcare backlogs. , but it can be “a slow and expensive solution”.

“There is growing awareness of the potential for smart technologies, such as our Clinical Decision Support System (CDS), to reduce backlogs by ensuring patients get the best test first,” said said O’Gorman.

“There has recently been a significant movement for healthcare providers to embrace digital technologies in an effort to cope with worsening waiting lists.”

The objective of the xWave platform is to reduce the backlog of certain medical diagnostic tools, which are vital for the early identification of various diseases.

A review of US Food and Drug Administration publications suggests that up to 50% of high-tech imaging procedures such as CT scans may be unnecessary because they do not provide information that improves well- to be patient.

xWave said its support system is already in use in an Irish hospital and has helped reduce the average time from referral to verification from over seven working days to 14 minutes.

The start-up said a recent audit of its CDS system suggests it has reduced referral volume by more than 8% at an Irish hospital group, freeing up system capacity for other patients.

“We are currently considering a pilot deployment of our clinical decision support systems with a number of GPs in Dublin to enable them to appropriately access imaging on behalf of their patients,” O’ said. Gorman.

xWave has also launched its platform in other countries, with a recent partnership with the Royal College of Radiologists in the UK. In June, this organization warned that backlogs in healthcare and a shortage of radiology consultants were causing delays in the treatment of cancers and other life-threatening conditions.

The partnership means that xWave’s technology is deployed in NHS hospitals in the UK. The start-up said it was working with a partnership of eight NHS trusts which cover more than 5 million patients, to develop a support system for radiology teams.

“Our mission is to save lives by ensuring patients get the best test first,” O’Gorman said. “Although the realization of this mission began with radiology, our intention is to expand our work to all medical diagnostics.

Digital tools for cancer patients

While xWave plans to expand its technology to other diagnostic devices, a recent partnership in the UK is focusing on the cancer care backlog.

UK treatment and research centre, Guy’s Cancer, recently launched a digital cancer care platform for its patients and healthcare teams.

The center has partnered with Careology to develop this platform. Careology is a digital platform that helps people with cancer navigate their treatment, using mobile technology to connect them with clinicians and caregivers.

The two organizations have begun a five-year collaboration to advance innovation in cancer care by developing new digital tools. It is hoped that this partnership will lead to better support for cancer patients, as well as improved clinical knowledge, data and operational improvements.

Dr Majid Kazmi is the Head of Cancer Services and Deputy Medical Director at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. Kazmi said he was a “passionate advocate” for the adoption of patient-centric digital technology.

“Digital technology has the potential to help patients and caregivers be better informed and supported, as well as provide healthcare professionals with relevant information that enables them to provide more responsive service and free up time for care. .”

Careology CEO Paul Landau said there is a “huge opportunity” for digital technology to transform the delivery of traditional cancer care.

“We are creating important technology that provides better patient support as well as enhanced clinical knowledge, data and operational improvements,” Landau said.

“Our collaboration with the Trust will allow us to accelerate the development and adoption of this vital new category with a world-class partner to help transform traditional cancer care through scalable technology so that more people receive the best possible care.”

Akara: Clean disinfection process

Another Irish company is looking for ways to reduce healthcare backlogs, using the power of robotics.

Akara graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 2019 and focused on developing AI and robots for the healthcare sector.

It started with Stevie, a social care robot designed to interact with the elderly and help out in nursing homes and retirement communities.

In 2020, the start-up unveiled its Violet disinfection robot, capable of autonomously navigating around a room and disinfecting it using ultraviolet light. Working with the HSE, it has been rolled out to Irish hospitals.

The start-up said the idea for the air decontamination robots arose from the pressures of Covid-19, where thorough cleaning of the air was paramount to prevent the spread of infections.

Recently, Akara has brought its technology to other countries, to support their disinfection efforts. One of its healthcare robots was recently tested at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (RCHT). The machine has been used in procedure rooms where the air has a higher risk of contamination.

After certain medical examinations, hospital rooms must be left vacant for periods longer than 25 minutes to allow clean air to enter through the vents. Akara said his robot can reduce that downtime to 10 minutes, allowing more procedures to be performed.

In October, RCHT’s assistant director of infection prevention and control, Joanne Taylor, said the machine had “definitely made things better for patients” thanks to reduced downtime.

She estimated that the robot could enable up to 2,400 additional procedures per year, “which would have a very significant effect on reducing waiting lists.”

Akara has also partnered with an Estonian hospital to bring new disinfection software to its workers. This partnership aims to support staff in their cleaning and disinfection procedures, by digitally recording cleaning tasks using Akara’s digital platform.

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