A predictive model used to estimate the risk of Covid-19 for individuals has won the 2021 Florence Nightingale Award for Excellence in Healthcare Data Analytics. The award, named after the Society’s first female fellow, Florence Nightingale, celebrates data analysts in the UK health and care sector whose work has demonstrably delivered better outcomes for patients and the healthcare system more widely.
Now in its second year, the award is supported by the Health Foundation, an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and healthcare for people in the UK.
The 2021 winner is: ‘The Covid-19 Population Risk Assessment, powered by QCovid®’ – The Covid-19 Population Risk Assessment team (Department of Health and Social Care, NHS Digital, NHS England, Office for National Statistics, Public Health England, University of Oxford, NERVTAG, Oxford University Innovations, Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication)
This cross-organisational team produced a predictive model, QCovid, which combines characteristics from a number of national datasets to estimate an individual’s risk of catching and then being hospitalised or dying from Covid-19. These characteristics include age, ethnicity, gender and deprivation. QCovid was then applied at scale so at-risk adults in England could be identified, prioritised for vaccination and added to the new national ‘Shielded Patients List’, which currently stands at almost four million people. The work powerfully demonstrates the value that high quality analytics can have at a nationwide scale. The level of collaboration, careful navigation of obstacles and focus on addressing health inequalities were all considered outstanding.
Highly commended: ‘Responsive and timely modelling of the Covid-19 pandemic to inform improved response’ – Dr Jasmina Panovska-Griffiths (Big Data Institute and Queen's College, Oxford University)
Dr Panovska-Griffiths led a cross-institutional, multi-disciplinary and international group that used data analytics and modelling to inform the response to the pandemic. It was considered an incredibly strong submission for this award. Her modelling work has informed important policy decisions, such as the need for pupils to wear masks when schools reopened in England in early 2021. The judges were impressed by the excellent engagement with individuals across the international healthcare field and a responsive approach to including new, open datasets.
Highly commended: ‘A system-wide approach to improving Covid-19 vaccines uptake’ – Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Mass Vaccination Programme team (BNSSG)
Uptake analysis has been crucial to the vaccine roll-out, and the BNSSG team went above and beyond to gain a better understanding of groups less likely to come forward for a vaccine. The data was presented in accessible formats to aid better decision-making and is an outstanding example of analysis as a tool to examine health inequalities. The team made a concerted effort to creatively engage with faith and community leaders as well as healthcare professionals to successfully improve vaccine coverage.
Adam Steventon, Director of Data Analytics at the Health Foundation, said ‘The pandemic continues to highlight the critical role that data and analytics increasingly play in protecting and improving the health of everybody in our society. The COVID19 Population Risk Assessment team’s work powerfully demonstrates that high quality analytics can make a real difference to patients' lives on a national scale. The level of collaboration, careful navigation of obstacles and the focus on addressing health inequalities on this project are outstanding.’
Stian Westlake, Chief Executive of the Royal Statistical Society, added: ‘Healthcare data analysts across the UK have risen to the numerous challenges and obstacles brought by the Covid-19 pandemic – working responsively, collaboratively and openly together. Congratulations to the winners who have really shown how their work can make a difference to patient outcomes.’
The RSS and Health Foundation are grateful to the judging panel (Garry Fothergill, Geraint Day, Karen Facey, Lori Edwards Suarez and Natalie Creary) for their involvement in this year’s award.