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Musgrove doctor wins NHS Innovation Challenge Prize - 05 December 2013

Musgrove doctor wins NHS Innovation Challenge Prize - 05 December 2013

Musgrove Park Hospital consultant cancer pathologist Dr Frederick Mayall has won an NHS Innovation Challenge Prize from the Secretary of State for Health for open source software that he created to aid the reporting of cancer specimens.

Innovation Challenge Prize

The quality and speed of cancer diagnosis is an important factor of outcomes. However, many cancer laboratories in the UK are still using antiquated reporting software and upgrading to a more modern system is expensive. Even the modern systems often lack the technology needed to efficiently report complex cases. They are often difficult to use across multiple sites.

Dr Mayall and the team in the Department of Cellular Pathology at Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, have developed web based reporting software that overcomes these difficulties. This was initially trialed by 15 staff at two sites in the UK to report over 10,000 cases; many complex tumour cases requiring key data element capture. This innovation, together with many other workflow improvements has resulted in a marked improvement in turnaround time for cancer specimens and has improved the quality of data collected for these cancers.. They are often difficult to use across multiple sites.

The software was developed as part of a wider project sponsored by the Department of Health to modernise processes in NHS cancer laboratories. The software is open source and intended to be shared. Over 500 sites from over 50 countries worldwide have downloaded it. New users of the software are encouraged to enhance the software further themselves and then share those enhancements with their colleagues at other sites.

The software makes it quick and easy to input accurate data. It uses proformas, text templates, computer generated text, visual process control, paperless processing and lean methodology to reduce delays and improve quality.

Hundreds of staff can use the system simultaneously with a standard web browser, so installation and running costs are extremely low. To install a bespoke system that could do this in a medium sized laboratory (which would handle around 25,000 specimens per year) would cost in excess of £100,000.

Although cost savings were not a primary goal, savings have been made and the lab has become more productive. Knock-on effects include reduced in-patient waiting, reduced cancellation of appointments and operations (due to results being more timely) and more efficient discussion of cases at multidisciplinary cancer meetings.

Speaking about the prize Dr Mayall said: “Everybody can agree that the diagnosis and treatment of cancer deserves the best possible technology, including information technology. However, it is also clear the highly specialist medical software development tends to be ignored by commercial software developers as the market is so small. When awarding this prize the NHS Innovation Challenge Panel commented that they were impressed with the potential that our home-grown open source model of software development has to answer unmet needs in other areas of medicine, particularly as we did this with no funding. Apple’s Filemaker subsidiary assisted with advice, for which I am very grateful.”

Dr Mayall has started discussions with NHS England about a possible future project to promote this type of software development more widely.

Read more here.

Dr Fred Mayall (centre) with Tony Speakman - Regional Director of Apple’s Filemaker Subsidiary (second Right), Miles Ayling - Director of Innovation for NHS England (Right), Sir Bruce Keogh - National Medical Director of NHS England (Left) and Kate Silverton – BBC presenter (second Left).