Posted Monday 23 December 2019
A health automation hackathon was held at Kingston University, bringing together 200 students, health professionals and technology enthusiasts to present imaginative solutions using artificial intelligence that could help improve access to patient records within the NHS.
The nine-hour marathon of robot building, user experience (UX) design and intensive problem solving, was hosted by artificial intelligence experts Alphalake Ai and sponsored by Automation Anywhere, a leader in Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
The two international technology firms challenged Kingston University's nursing, computer science, digital media, mathematics and UX design students to explore how RPA could be applied to save healthcare professionals valuable time on hospital wards. Participating teams had to consider information governance, legal and policy issues and apply technical, design, and problem-solving skills to deliver an intuitive user experience.
Neil Goodman, a consultant, leading digital transformation at the NHS North East London Commissioning Support Unit, said optimising computer systems that can exchange and make use of information was currently a major challenge in healthcare. "The NHS has struggled for a long time working across multiple platforms that don't talk to each other. RPA can go a long way to solve this issue by using back-end admin bots that access multiple systems when granted the right user permissions," Mr Goodman explained. "It means they can collect data from different systems and present it in a single-view user interface," he added.
The overall winning team designed an app that would use analytics to provide automated information updates to hospital patients and their loved ones. Families could then receive real-time updates about scans, consultant visits and updates from doctors.
Another idea - which won the event's Biggest Impact Award - was for an app that would enable electrocardiogram (ECG) machines to generate a digital output to be assessed by doctors on the ward via an app, eliminating the need for paper printouts.
Nursing student, Leanne Goode, came up with the idea after completing a work placement in an accident emergency department. "I sometimes found it difficult to find a doctor to sign off the printed result of an ECG test on a patient. With my app the results would go directly onto the NHS care records service system - where all patient information is stored - and a doctor could sign it off from there," she said.
"This system would also pick up if there's an abnormality and an alert would pop up to inform all the physicians in the department that there's a potential problem with the patient," she added.
The winning teams will have the opportunity to work with Alphalake Ai to develop their ideas through a Health Innovation Internship Programme, in collaboration with Automation Anywhere and the NHS.
Associate professor in computer science at Kingston University, Dr Islam Choudhury, said taking a design idea and presenting a solution on the same day to industry professionals was a great opportunity for students to work as a team on real-life healthcare issues. "This experience will really help students understand how things work in the industry and give them the confidence to excel in this area of work," he said.
Alphalake Ai co-founder and chief executive Olly Cogan said events like the hackathon formed part of the work the company is doing to improve the digital patient experience. "The hackathon squads should be incredibly proud of their brilliant work innovating around improved data accessibility in healthcare," he said. "There were some really clever and well thought out ideas which looked into user experience and user interface, and we are excited to work with a team to develop these concepts further."
Head of enterprise education at Kingston University, Dr Martha Mador, said the University was delighted to be working with AlphalakeAi on this fascinating challenge. "Our students are all keen to develop and test their understanding of the problem and deliver insights into potential solutions. We are proud to be working with both public and private organisations to help solve key challenges of the day," she said.
The Kingston University Santander HackCentre has been set up with support from Santander Universities to encourage students to explore new ideas by hacking defined challenges.