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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 January 2007, 00:06 GMT
System to spot at-risk patients
Woman with asthma
Patients with conditions such as asthma could benefit
Computer technology is helping doctors identify patients with long-term conditions at risk of deterioration, before they need hospital care.

Using patient information from a range of sources, a new programme predicts when people with conditions such as asthma will take a turn for the worse.

The aim is to cut emergency admissions by allowing health workers to intervene before the situation becomes critical.

The Department of Health says this will mean patients get better care.

This new model will arm healthcare professionals with the information they need to target patients
Niall Dickson
King's Fund

With the right intervention, ministers argue, the deterioration of a patient's condition could be prevented or slowed down.

Health Minister Rosie Winterton said: "Our population is getting older and more of us are living with an illness or condition which means huge increases in demand on health and social care services."

Tests

The Combined Predictive Model has been developed by the King's Fund, Health Dialog and New York University.

The system uses patient information from accident and emergency, inpatient, outpatient and GP sources.

Part of the system has already been tested in several primary care trusts, and the fully fledged version has been trialled in Croydon, south London.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the King's Fund, said: "This new model will arm healthcare professionals with the information they need to target patients who face a much greater risk of ending up in hospital if their conditions are not managed effectively in the community.

"Previous techniques only allowed us to identify patients who had already been admitted to hospital on at least one occasion.

"However, this model allows us to go beyond this group to identify and provide better care for the vast numbers of people whose conditions are not yet at this critical stage.

"Helping these patients with good disease management programmes, or supporting them to self-manage, should have a great impact on their daily lives and prevent unnecessary hospital admissions."

Geraint Lewis, specialist registrar at Croydon PCT, said the new model had transformed the way people with complex medical and social needs are looked after in Croydon.

He said: "By allowing us to identify individuals before they become acutely unwell, our clinicians can offer proactive - rather than reactive - care."


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