England has eased the lockdown, but what next? Predictive analytics and AI must be part of the plan

08 Jun 2020 | 2 min read

Lorna Barclay, Lead analyst

As the Government unveils its strategy to gradually ease the UK out of lockdown, it brings with it a new vision of the future for the NHS. The strategy includes plans to carry on with the use of virtual doctors’ appointments which have increased in use – in March alone the proportion of telephone appointments in GP practices increased by 600 per cent. In hospitals tens of thousands of out-patient appointments have been carried out via video.

For the safety of staff and patients, innovative solutions are needed with telemedicine and remote monitoring being highlighted to help provide hospital level care within the community. This technology is already available and has previously been a feature of the NHS Long Term Plan.

Detailed in the Government strategy is the need to invest in preventive health schemes, in order to help reduce obesity and other risk factors linked to COVID-19 deaths. Given the focus is now shifting towards avoiding a further spike in COVID-19 cases, we need useful insight into population risk based on accurate data analysis.

With this type of analysis, we can find out where risk of developing COVID-19 is highest and where resources and public health campaigns must be directed to be of the most use. Expert analysis of data is key and machine learning and AI are a vital tool in being able to accurately analyse such large volumes of data.

By using this approach we can also help patients who are at risk for other diseases become more involved in managing their own health as well as providing pro-active rather than reactive care, helping to save lives and reduce demand on the NHS in the face of a virus that may be around us for some time.

Successful health systems rely on reducing demand, which can be achieved by putting in place pro-active care – for example finding those who are most at risk of falls or a mental health crisis, or helping to avoid emergency admissions.

Machine learning and AI are helping with this approach, particularly at Dr Foster, where we are using predictive modelling to help reduce emergency admissions in Lambeth and will also be rolling out a pilot to help predict falls in the area.