Two doctors from Cwm Taf Morgannwg’s head and neck cancer team have scooped two of the five winning spots in a Wales-wide event, with their separate projects to improve patient outcomes and experience.
ENT Consultant Mouli Doddi and Maxillofacial Registrar John Wells are celebrating victory in the latest Welsh Health Hack, an opportunity for health and social care workers to share the challenges facing them at work and then pitch and develop a solution. In both cases it was the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic that created the space to reflect and think differently, in turn enabling them to pitch their ideas to develop innovative pathways to benefit their patients.
Now in its fourth year, the Welsh Health Hack 2020 saw 24 teams – involving 130 people and 28 challenges – from across Wales present their idea to the panel and pitch for start-up funding. Five teams were successful, with pitches from Mr Doddi and Mr Wells ensuring our Health Board led the way.
Mr Doddi’s pitch was based on reducing the ENT waiting times at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, while Mr Wells will develop a digital workflow for head and neck skin cancer patients.
Dr Doddi said: “As a result of Covid-19, the ENT department at Royal Glamorgan now has a record number of patients waiting to be seen in the clinic. My idea, called Consult Smartly, is a bespoke ENT virtual consultation platform that can utilise unused capacity. The main aim is to clear the waiting list caused by the pandemic and save the NHS hundreds of thousands of pounds.
“Our success at the Health Hack is fantastic news for our Health Board. Anyone with an innovative idea can apply to pitch. Initially I had a one-minute slot to talk about the idea, then I was invited to present during a three-minute slot in front of the Bevan Commission, all the Wales health boards and people from industry.”
Listening to the pitch was Syml Connect, a software company from Swansea, who agreed to partner with Mr Doddi and will now deliver the project within two months of the funding being released.
Mr Doddi added: “This is prudent health care, with the main aim of developing a sustainable and cost effective model to clear waiting lists in ENT. We can use technology to better utilise the unused spare capacity of NHS. It is a model that can be easily scaled to all the ENT departments in Wales, saving millions of pounds.”
Talking about his idea, Mr Wells said: “Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Wales and the majority affects the face, head and neck. These tumours and the scars associated with their treatment can have a significant impact on the patient’s quality of life. The outcomes are very measurable; for the surgeon, the measure is whether we have removed all the tumour, while, for the patient, it is the acceptability and impact of the scar.
“Paperwork is time-consuming and prone to error and omissions. In addition, paper systems do not lend themselves to easy analysis. I’ve proposed that we join it all together in one digital system and continually monitor our performance and patient feedback. Such a system will make it much easier for surgeons to reflect on their practice, with all surgeons constantly striving to improve outcomes and experience.”
In addition to the Health Hack funding, the digital workflow has been made possible by match funding from Empyrean Digital, a Wales-based IT company developing the project. “Greg and his team from Empyrean are keen to take a chance on our idea and invest their expertise, as they see the benefits for our patients,” added Mr Wells.
“The great thing about the Health Hack is that every organisation involved is contributing something to the success of the project. This turns a modest investment from Welsh Government into a product that will lead to better outcomes and experience for patients and would not be possible without the bringing all of these contributions together.”
Bevan Commission deputy director Sion Charles said: “Against very stiff competition from 24 other teams, Cwm Taf Morgannwg has done really well in this Welsh Health Hack, taking two of the top five places with two very deserving winners.”
The Health Hack was delivered in partnership with AgorIP, Accelerate, Welsh Government, Life Sciences Hub, M-Sparc, Bangor University, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and all health boards in Wales, NWIS and Health Technology Wales.