Q+A: Overcoming the Covid-19 elective care challenge with predictive analytics and capacity modelling

Andy Branch, Head of Projects recently sat down to discuss how NHS trusts can use predictive analytics and capacity modelling to understand the demand on elective surgery that has been caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

30 Jun 2020 | 3 min read

What are the biggest challenges in elective care facing NHS trusts?

The Covid-19 pandemic has created a backlog of elective work which NHS Trusts are going to have to manage alongside any further increases in cases of Covid-19. Estimates have put the time it will take to recover to a pre-pandemic situation as months, possibly years. The first task for NHS Trusts is to determine the extent of the demand they are likely to face – how many postponed operations and other elective work there is to be done

Why is it so important that NHS trusts rise to the challenge?

If the NHS fails to care for the people who need elective treatment, they will become sicker. Our healthcare services must not be put in a position where one of their fundamental aims – keeping people well – is compromised.

What will happen if the NHS fails to overcome the challenge?

The NHS works tirelessly to not just extend life, but actively make it better. We have all been locked in for months and now should have a better understanding of the impact of not being able to leave the house freely and live life the way we want to. This is the reality for many people, whether they are in need of cataract surgery, hip replacements or just being in constant pain and discomfort due to a hernia or gallstones. We need to recognise the impact on patients who have waited longer for their surgery by doing everything possible to get them treated.

How can Dr Foster support NHS Trusts to overcome the elective care challenge?

Many NHS Trusts already have their own teams working on the challenge to quantify how much elective work is needed, but Dr Foster can support them by using its expert analysis. For example, by helping to quantify but also highlighting the impact of getting operations back on track

How can NHS Trusts map this information to current service levels?

By understanding the potential impact of tackling the elective care backlog specialty by specialty, Dr Foster can provide the insight need to ensure exiting services are not compromised

How can they use predictive analytics to take action now?

Our predictive models look at the workload NHS trusts have now compared to previous years to identify the gaps by working out who is likely to not have presented. We examine how that will impact the waiting list in 12, 18, 40 and 52 weeks from now. We ask what needs to happen to bring services back to as near normal as possible. Importantly, we don’t provide just one answer. Based on the scenarios that we agree with each trust, we provide a range of answers and recommend plans to accommodate all of them at the same time tracking the actual impact.

What else is Dr Foster bringing to capacity modelling?

Dr Foster has been supporting the NHS for the better part of 20 years and our team is highly skilled and experienced. This means there is no lead time as we are ready to go now.

Few information, transformation or planning teams in hospitals have spare capacity. Covid-19 has hit front line services hard, but it has also stretched the back-office support functions as demand for data to help track the progress of this virus has drained resources.

The pandemic has also demonstrated to hospital management teams the importance of good information management and the real power of data. We can help to plan and analyse capacity at a time when it is most needed. We will help trusts to understand the problem better and act quicker to resolve it. What’s more we’ll help them understand if the actions taken are the most effective, or if there is another way.

Watch the Q+A with Andy Branch

Dr Foster is analysing data during the COVID-19 pandemic aiming to explore how the increases in demand from COVID-19 patients and changes to supply of elective procedures will have a knock-on effect on volumes of patients in the wider population receiving both routine and urgent care. View our use case for quantifying activity reduction to find out what analysis we can do for your organisation. 

For more information on the work Dr Foster is doing on elective capacity modelling, email andy.branch@health.telstra.com