NHS trust signs £25m deal with Hitachi for digital twin and control centre
An NHS trust in Manchester, in the UK, has agreed a £25 million deal with Hitachi Consulting to use advanced data analytics and IoT tools to digitise its processes and optimise its staff resources, in what is billed as the “UK’s first fully integrated hospital-wide digital transformation”.
The 10-year project with the Northern Care Alliance NHS Group, which unites the Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust in the Greater Manchester area, will create a ‘digital control centre’, initially, in the Salford Royal Hospital in Salford, to optimise its “acute and integrated” services.
It will also establish a ‘digital twin’ of hospital operations for clinicians and managers to model potential changes in the organisation of care.
KPMG, ExtraMed, Microsoft and CenTrak are also involved in the project.
The control centre is modelled on the ‘capacity command centre’ at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, in the US, according to one report. The Baltimore setup, handled by GE, was designed for the same purpose, to improve patient flow, patient and staff scheduling.
The idea is to release staff from “fire-fighting” manual process-oriented tasks, to be able to provide greater care for patients and make fuller use of their clinical expertise. “Daily frustrations with a lack of information, chasing data and filling forms will be minimised by automated processes and visualisation of information,” said Hitachi.
The system will optimise other hospital resources, as well, such as beds, operating theatres, and medical equipment. The digital-twin simulation will enable the hospital to adapt “evidenced changes that are more likely to deliver the desired benefit”, according to Hitachi.
The digital control centre will deliver capabilities across three core areas: operational Intelligence, strategic planning and simulation; demand and capacity planning and smart scheduling; and patient Insights and patient flow. Hitachi said the Salford model will provide a “repeatable blueprint” for other NHS trusts, and for healthcare generally.
The first phase of deployment will focus on urgent care at Salford Royal, introducing patient insights and flow management tools to provide emergency staff with near real time data about attendance and admission histories, clinical indicators from patient histories, and admission risks and patient scores to direct care.
Demand management tools will improve real-time decision making; for example, by showing where bed capacity is and providing semi-automatic bed planning. The programme will expanded into the Northern Care Alliance’s other sites following the first phase, with an option for a further £50 million investment.
The Northern Care Alliance made clear staff must be afforded support, from the trust’s leadership team, to make the most of the technology.
Raj Jain, chief executive at the Northern Care Alliance, said: “The change will impact staff across the organisation. Supporting staff to determine and deliver these improvements is what is key. The technology [will] enable staff to transform, but the staff that will deliver the benefits. Committed and consistent clinical and managerial leadership is key.
He added: “We strive to deliver the right care, in the right place, at the right time. This venture will allow us to do this. For staff, it can feel like a daily fire-fighting exercise to ensure our patients are admitted appropriately, that they get to see the right healthcare professionals, have the treatment they need, and are discharged appropriately. This programme will revolutionise the system, enhancing the care and experience we offer to our patients.”
Paul Watson, vice president for healthcare in EMEA at Hitachi Consulting, commented “The control centre shows just how much power there is when you leverage digital tools to transform hospital operations. We will unlock more resources, enable faster access to actionable information, improve ways of working for staff and improve access to care.”
The Northern Care Alliance NHS Group employs 19,000 staff in hospitals and community services in Salford, Oldham, Bury, Rochdale, and North Manchester. It includes the Salford Royal hospital, and the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust. The Salford Royal has a reputation as “one of the most digitally mature” trusts in the NHS, it said.
Jain said: “Our approach is always to ensure our clinicians are crucial to the design and creation of programmes of work and this programme is absolutely no different. I’ve worked side by side with clinicians as this piece of work has developed and will continue to do so as we implement this across Salford Royal and, in time, more widely across the Northern Care Alliance to benefit an even wider population of patients.”