Under every rock is a rockery of insight!

In 2013 the NIHR Clinical Research Network was one of the proud sponsors of the Business Intelligence Centre of Excellence (CofE) awards. The NIHR CRN sponsored the “Best use of Business Intelligence in a “what if scenario” award, which was won by East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust.

The team from East Kent delivered a suite of applications to aid with business decisions at all levels of their Trust. Their submission for the award detailed the applications as well as the process they went through to create them and alongside related user experiences.

East Kent demonstrated that that they were clearly creating a centre of excellence about how they delivered Business Intelligence into the NHS. The applications they have delivered enable all types of departments to ask the valuable ”What if?” question. For example, this means departments can work out the impact of extra clinicians on the length of waiting times.

To follow up on the awards and see what it was like on the front line of a ‘Centre of Excellence’ NIHR Clinical Research Network Chief Information Officer Richard Corbridge went to visit them in mid-February.  Meeting two key parts of the team: Dr Marc Farr (Director of Information) and Christopher Green (Principle Information Analyst), it was clear that the Trust has a driving force to deliver excellence through expert use of its information. The team now have over 40 Business Intelligence applications available to a diverse range of users delivered through a team of fifteen information experts.

The applications are diverse and include:

  • An app that tracks bed capacity against speciality and clinician, which can be accessed from tablet or PC
  • An app available across the Trust’s local accident admission sites that allows the patient to choose which site to attend, based on the wait time at each location – if you do decide to visit another site, the app gives you directions for how to get there

Christopher Green believes that the suit of applications has enabled theTrust to: “gauge the pressure of its capacity and needs” and use data to do something about it.

Just over three years ago the Trust had a small information management team, that was not in a position to make the most of the data being produced.  The team were there to crunch numbers and react, but the tools they had at their disposal did not allow for ‘What if?’ scenarios.

The trust agreed that it needed to make more of its data, so it could deliver insight to all areas of care delivery. In line with this aim, Dr Marc Farr defined a new, ambitious role for his team:

‘… to connect patients, clinicians and  managers through beautiful information to make healthcare simple and transparent.’

Some of the applications that the Trust has built are just that: beautiful information in action. The launch screen for the applications is modelled on the London Tube map, with each ‘line’ a series of applications useful for a care setting or type of role.

The Information Team has been remodelled in four divisions that match the care settings across the trust:

  • Urgent Care
  • Specialists
  • Surgery
  • Clinical Support

By embedding this information divisions within clinical functions, it has enabled the teams to become experts in their field, creating a relationship that allows them to create new and innovative ways to turn information into business intelligence.

The Trust has an ambition to be the most transparent trust in the NHS through the use and availability of its data, not just to the clinician but to the patient as well. The trust has seized the ‘open data’ initiative and works hard to understand how each data item can be used and in what way.  This approach has already reduced waiting times for patients and access to valuable information within the Trust’s A&E departments. The intention is for similar progress across other key environments.

The final words of the day though were from Christopher Green the author of the original CofE awards application, he described the role of the team to get under every rock because, ‘under every rock is a rockery of insight!’


– Richard Corbridge

Chief Information Officer

NIHR Clinical Research Network