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Recognising excellence in health care data analytics Winners of the Florence Nightingale Award for Excellence in Healthcare Data Analytics announced

27 October 2020

About 4 mins to read

Recognising hard work and excellence in health care data analytics is more important than ever. The pandemic has illustrated a truth that we’ve long argued: we cannot improve people’s health and wellbeing without the skilled analytics teams that can transform data into actionable intelligence.

Today, the Royal Statistical Society announces the two winners of the inaugural Florence Nightingale Award for Excellence in Healthcare Data Analytics, created to mark the bicentenary of Nightingale’s birth, and supported by the Health Foundation. The award ‘recognises practitioners in applied health care data analytics who have gone the extra mile in delivering innovative improvements for the health care system.’

Thinking of Florence Nightingale’s incredible contributions to nursing and statistics, I wonder what she would have made of modern health care and the data that underpin it. I hope she would be pleased with the way that today’s winners have mirrored the innovation, care and leadership she demonstrated years earlier. 

Addressing inequalities in health care  

Florence Nightingale’s legacy is one of compassion and determination. As an advocate of access to nursing for the ‘sick and poor’, she was a fierce supporter of making national health care services available to all – regardless of people’s wealth or status.

200 years later, we still see inequalities in outcomes and access to care. The pandemic has highlighted the crucial role of data and analytics to understand and tackle these. At the Health Foundation we appreciate the potential of data-driven innovation to revolutionise health care, but we also recognise the risk that it can exacerbate existing health inequalities and inequities in access to care. It is therefore fitting that one of the winners of the Florence Nightingale Award is a project that emphasises the need for equitable principles being designed into data and data-driven technology. NHS Blood and Transplant’s work to develop an analytics model that equitably allocates kidneys – from deceased organ donors to patients on the UK kidney transplant waiting list – has had a national impact. The project has seen an increase in transplant rates among groups that historically wait longer for transplants, such as patients from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Innovative analytics in the open 

Florence Nightingale was the first woman to join the Royal Statistical Society in 1858 and quickly introduced her work as a statistician to the public, government and her peers. She published volumes of letters, essays and books, using innovative visualisations for the data she analysed to make it accessible to all. Nightingale’s boldness in sharing data and analyses on the pages of newspapers could be considered a precursor to open analytics. Important work is being done to share advanced applied analytics in the open – encouraging sharing, reproducibility, scientific integrity and credibility. Recent work by the Open Data Institute, commissioned by the Health Foundation, recommends that innovators prepare to share their data. Where new data-driven technologies have the potential to support clinical decision making or improve service provision, practicing excellence means practicing in the open.

Together with the Royal Statistical Society, we have therefore named the Alan Turing Institute and Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust as a winner for demonstrating this innovative spirit and sharing their methods publicly. Their team applied artificial intelligence analytics to develop a tool that assists nurses when triaging during the first crucial moments of a patient’s arrival in an emergency department. Careful attention was paid to ensure that the model was not biased against minority populations or groups with specific health conditions. This project supports clinicians to better identify high-risk patients and has been particularly impactful for paediatric patients and their parents, for whom fretful delays and unnecessary admissions are a cause of distress. The team made their code accessible to all and engaged with the public about the impact of their tool and how they built it. In this way, they advance Nightingale’s efforts to open up analytics, further the professional field and champion new methods.

Recognising excellence during the pandemic 

This year, in extraordinary circumstances, we have learned the value of those skilled enough to study data and wield analyses in health care. In the spring, teams across the country studied exponential curves and modelled the number of gloves and masks our carers, porters and consultants would need to care for COVID-19 patients safely. In the summer, they were working to remodel demand and capacity to resume routine appointments and procedures, protecting the health of countless patients. Now, they’re working to brace and strengthen the health and care system ahead of a difficult winter.

There will be successes to celebrate and innovative teams to recognise. Please take a moment to consider the teams you work among and submit an entry or nominate a colleague. In 2021, the Health Foundation will support once again the Florence Nightingale Award for Excellence in Healthcare Data Analytics  which opens for entries in January 2021.

Ellen Coughlan (@EllenCoughlan) is Programme Manager at the Health Foundation.

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