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02/09/2005

NHS introduces patient ‘early warning system’

The Department of Health has launched a new computer system, which will provide an ‘early warning’ system to help identify patients in England with long-term conditions most at risk of requiring hospital admission.

The computer software uses a wide range of patient information, including age, type of illness, such as diabetes, asthma and arthritis, and recent contacts with the NHS, in order to work out which patients are most in need of care.

NHS care teams would then be able to work with patients, in order to help them maintain their health and avoid a visit to hospital.

The new computer programme has been developed for the Department of Health by the King’s Fund, in partnership with researchers at New York University and Health Dialog – a care management firm that specialised in analytics and chronic disease management.

Commenting on the new scheme, Health Minister Lord Warner, said: “The NHS is developing into a service that not only provides excellent care when a person becomes sick, but also works with patients to help them maintain their health and stay out of hospital.

“This new system is a great innovation that will provide NHS staff with additional help in this important work.”

King’s Fund chief executive Niall Dickson commented: "Providing better care for people with long-term conditions is one of the greatest challenges facing the NHS. We know that we need to target help at those most at risk, but until now there was no robust way of achieving this. We hope this programme will be more effective than previous techniques at identifying high-risk patients. The prize would be immense - better care of a higher quality delivered earlier to patients, fewer unnecessary hospital admissions and better use of NHS resources."

The new software is being provided free to the NHS from Friday. It will be further developed over the autumn to incorporate data from community sources in addition to hospital data, in order to enhance its capability further.

The hoped that the final version will be available at the start of 2006.

(KMcA/SP)

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