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Harness the power of data to map new patient pathways

Oli Hudson, of Wilmington Healthcare, explains why pharma needs to put data at the heart of its bid to support the NHS Reset


To capitalise on innovations and continue to drive improvements, as part of the Reset, the NHS needs to understand how new patient pathways are performing and how covid-19 is impacting on its services regionally.

Data is key to achieving these goals and, in this article, we will explore how pharma can use it to help the NHS devise preventative, population-based solutions.

New pathways

The pandemic has brought big changes in the way that patients are managed, with more care being delivered in patients’ homes and fewer people accessing the NHS via traditional routes.

The NHS needs to be very data driven to map these developments and understand local populations and what they need. However, tracking patients and defining where they are in pathways is challenging.

There is a big role for pharma in helping the NHS track changes, from the new staff responsible for managing patients, to how this is being achieved and whether patient outcomes are improving as a result.

Hospital Episode Statistics (HES)

There are a number of different datasets that can help pharma to track patients. Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) data, which contains details of all admissions, outpatient appointments and A&E visits to NHS hospitals in England, is a good place to start.

Information available includes reasons for a hospital visit, treatments given, or procedures carried out, and whether admission was required. Pharma can also see how this data compares to previous years across different specialties to better understand how covid-19 has affected them.

Prescribing data

Prescribing data is key to understanding what is occurring more widely within the healthcare system based on the type of drugs that are being prescribed and where this is happening within the NHS.

The data can also provide useful insights on who is managing treatment. So, for instance, is it being managed by community prescribers in primary care rather than specialists?

Pharma can also use this data to find out where treatment is being administered, which is particularly insightful in terms of determining the number and type of patients requiring homecare services, and therefore homecare drugs. Prescribing data can also be used to identify who is monitoring the outcomes of drug regimens.

Impact of covid-19

In addition to tracking patients through specific pathways, it is vital to know about hospital capacity, particularly with regard to covid-19, as this will have a huge impact on the way care is managed regionally.

Key data that can be gathered includes patient flows and admission rates for covid-19 in different hospitals from the start of the pandemic through to the present time. This can be broken down to determine how covid-19 has impacted patients in a given therapy area, or subspecialty on a month by month basis, compared to previous years.

There is also much that industry can do to risk stratify patients during the pandemic and help the NHS develop new preventative strategies to manage them. For example, pharma can gather valuable insights into the potential complications and readmission risks faced by patients who have had coronavirus. This can help to form the basis for a range of preventative solutions with regard to products and how and where patients should be treated.

Planned care

Tackling the elective care backlog is a huge challenge and there is a role for pharma in helping the NHS manage patients while they wait for surgery or other treatment. Industry can also monitor hospital capacity to determine where patients could be brought back into the system.

In terms of patient management, industry could, for example, identify and risk stratify patients who are highly likely to develop further complications while waiting for treatment and devise ways to safely manage them in the most appropriate setting.

So, a company specialising in pain management, for instance, could risk stratify older people facing long waits for hip or knee replacements, who may need extended, different and perhaps more intense pain management regimens, and devise appropriate treatment plans.

Conversely, by tracking covid-related activity within hospitals, pharma could find out if the number of patients accessing certain services has decreased and whether there is capacity to resume them.


The NHS must capitalise on the positive changes that have been made in service design and delivery as a result of the pandemic and continue to innovate if it is to tackle the challenges posed by covid-19. However, it needs a wealth of population-based data to inform its decision-making.

There is a key role for pharma to play here in using data and information to help the NHS track patients through new pathways, understand where they are working well and how improvements can be made. There is also much that industry can do to help the NHS monitor the impact of covid-19 on a regional basis and risk stratify patients who are being impacted by it.


Oli Hudson is Content Director at Wilmington Healthcare. For information on Wilmington Healthcare, visit

24th November 2020



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