• AI tool for patient flow wins London Higher Award
    Joe Farrington, PhD student, Institute of Healthcare Informatics and Amalia Gjerloev, PhD student, CORU (Credit: UCL)

News & Views

AI tool for patient flow wins London Higher Award

Jun 20 2024

A computer programme developed by University College London (UCL) staff to manage the flow of patients through hospitals has won the Healthcare Partnership of the Year category at the London Higher Awards 2024.

The AI tool estimates how many hospital beds will be needed in eight hours’ time, incorporating live data of patients who have arrived at the hospital’s emergency department. Used by University College London Hospital for the last year on a daily basis, research has found it to be significantly more accurate than the traditional way of trying to predict patient flow which looks at the average number of beds needed on the same day of the week for the previous six weeks.

UCL Hospital’s use of the AI tool has been so successful that they are extending the partnership to develop further models, including making predictions specific to medical or surgical wards and predicting patient discharges as well as admissions. The UCL team are also developing resources to support NHS analysts to apply the model in other London hospitals and beyond.

Lead researcher Dr Zella King (UCL Clinical Operational Research Unit) said: “We are thrilled to have won this award and incredibly proud of the partnership we have built with UCLH to improve patient outcomes.

“Our AI models provide a much richer picture about the likely demand on beds throughout the course of the day. This can help planners to manage patient flow, so much so that we are now looking to extend these models to other hospitals around London, promoting faster access to high-quality care for patients.”

Three other UCL initiatives were shortlisted for the awards: In the Best Entrepreneurial Initiative at a London University category, UCL Innovation and Enterprise for London Demo Day, which is an annual collaboration between Imperial, King’s College London, London School of Economics (LSE) and UCL, introduces investors to the best and brightest innovations at London universities with founder-owned IP.

In the Outstanding Wellbeing Support for Students in London category, UCL Student Support and Wellbeing. In 2022-23, UCL Student Support and Wellbeing transformed their student wellbeing events and campaigns. Instead of ad-hoc one-off events, a structured schedule was planned, mapping events to the student life cycle and giving those needing help the tools to create resilience.

And in the Outstanding Contribution to Enhancing the Overseas Student Experience in London category, UCL Centre for International Medical Education Collaborations, which works with its international partners to transform medical and healthcare education systems and practice. A key feature of collaboration with the Chulabhorn Royal Academy is a new intercalated Bachelor of Science programme pathway (iBSc), which medical students can undertake at UCL.

Professor Christian Boehmer, head of department at UCL Mathematics, said “I am immensely proud of the Clinical Operational Research Unit (CORU) for their outstanding achievement in winning this prestigious award. By collaborating closely with our healthcare partners, CORU continues to lead the way in advancing patient care, health policy, and operational efficiency. Congratulations to Dr Zella King and the entire CORU team.”

Professor Alan Thompson, Pro-Provost (London) and Dean of the Faculty of Brain Sciences, also expressed his pride in UCL’s winners and all nominees.

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