Trust wins Digital Innovation Team of the Year at BMJ awards

A multi-disciplinary team from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust has been recognised for their innovative approach to improving patient care through technology, with an award from leading industry publication the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

The team won the Digital Innovation Team of the Year for creating an algorithm to analyse the free text comments made by patients responding to the ‘Friends and Family Test’ – a test created by the NHS to provide feedback to NHS organisations so that they can identify where improvements can be made. 

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust receives 20,000 patient comments a month through the Friends and Family Test. This feedback provides a rich source of information, but the volume is so great that it cannot be matched with the human resources needed to read through them all, categorise them, and use them for quality improvement. 

Consultant surgeon Mr Erik Mayer, clinical research fellow Mustafa Khanbhai along with head of patient experience Stephanie Harrison-White, Dr Bob Klaber and the Quality Improvement Team, Kelsey Flott and the NIHR Imperial Patient Safety Translational Research Centre and patient representative Dave Manton, developed the algorithm so that data from the Friends and Family Test could be analysed and acted upon much more quickly. They trained it using 6000 patient comments that had been manually categorised and used the coded dataset to test the algorithm. They also created a dashboard to enable frontline staff to interact with the data. The dashboard displays patterns in patient feedback over time, from which staff can drill down to access the patient’s original narrative. 

Western Eye Hospital was the first to start using the algorithm and staff were quickly able to identify areas of improvement. For example, informing patients of their position in the outpatient clinic, ensuring water fountains are available and well signposted, as well as increasing the availability of TV and magazines in the waiting area.

Erik Mayer, who led the project said: “We are really excited to have received this award as we believe the software will benefit our quality improvement work across the Trust.

“Patient feedback data can now be processed in near real time and the dashboard can be accessed from any computer in the Trust. We are using the dashboard to track how patient comments are changing over time in response to changes in delivery of care.”
“It took staff four days to manually code the data where it takes the algorithm 15 minutes. The time saved means the patient experience team has more time to help staff respond to what our patients are telling us,” explains head of patient experience Stephanie Harrison-White.

The algorithm was developed on open source National Language Processing software and the team is currently assessing how it can be used by other trusts. The work was funded using a 12 month Health Foundation grant, by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Imperial Patient Safety Translation Research Centre and the NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Centre.

Notes to editors

1. The BMJ Awards are the UK’s premier medical awards programme, designed to reflect The BMJ’s mission to improve patient outcomes and to recognise the exceptional work done by doctors and their clinical teams around the UK. 

2. The Friends and Family Test was initially launched in 2013 giving all patients the opportunity to leave feedback on their care and treatment. It is an important feedback tool that supports the fundamental principle that people who use NHS services should have the opportunity to provide feedback on their experience. The test has two free-text questions where patients are asked what we did well and what we could improve on.