UCL AI tool wins prestigious award

A computer programme developed by UCL staff which helps hospital staff to manage the flow of patients through hospital has won a prestigious award.

The software, which uses artificial intelligence, won the Healthcare Partnership of the Year category at the London Higher Awards 2024. London Higher is the membership organisation for universities and higher education colleges across the capital.

The AI tool estimates how many hospital beds will be needed in eight hours’ time, incorporating  live data of patients who have arrived at the hospital’s emergency department.

It has been used by University College London Hospital for the last year on a daily basis and research has found it to be significantly more accurate than the traditional way of trying to predict patient flow.

The conventional method is based on looking at the average number of beds needed on the same day of the week for the previous six weeks.

UCL Hospital’s use of the AI tool has been so successful that they are extending the partnership to  develop further models, including making predictions specific to medical or surgical wards and predicting patient discharges as well as admissions.  

The software also could be rolled out more widely - the UCL team are developing resources to support NHS analysts to apply the model in other London hospitals and beyond.

Lead researcher Dr Zella King (UCL Clinical Operational Research Unit) said: "We are thrilled to have won this award.

"We are incredibly proud of the partnership we have built with UCLH to improve patient outcomes.

"Our AI models provide a much richer picture about the likely demand on beds throughout the course of the day.

"This can help planners to manage patient flow, so much so that we are now looking to extend these models to other hospitals around London, promoting faster access to high-quality care for patients."

Three other UCL initiatives were shortlisted for the awards.

They were:

In the Best Entrepreneurial Initiative at a London University category, UCL Innovation and Enterprise for London Demo Day, which is an annual collaboration between Imperial, King’s College London, London School of Economics (LSE) and UCL that introduces investors to the best and brightest innovations at London universities with founder-owned IP. Entrepreneurs from the five universities pitched their start-ups to investors at Demo Day 2023 aiming to secure funding to scale their venture. Since 2019, 45 innovative teams have pitched, collectively raising over £45m+ with a combined post-money valuation of £155m.

In the Outstanding Wellbeing Support for Students in London category, UCL Student Support and Wellbeing. In 2022-23, UCL Student Support and Wellbeing transformed their student wellbeing events and campaigns.  Instead of ad-hoc one-off events, we planned a structured schedule, mapping events to the student life cycle with one event campaign per term. The events were designed to support students feeling lonely, homesick, anxious, or low to help them to combat these feelings and give them the tools to create resilience.  We ran a total of 104 events, a 225% increase on the previous year. All of them are part of the Hatchery incubator programme at UCL’s dedicated King’s Cross entrepreneurship hub and receive free support and office space, mentorship masterclasses, clinics and competitions to fast-track their success and prepare them for investment.

And in the Outstanding Contribution to Enhancing the Overseas Student Experience in London category, UCL Centre for International Medical Education Collaborations, which works with its international partners to transform medical and healthcare education systems and practice. A key feature of our collaboration with the Chulabhorn Royal Academy is a new intercalated Bachelor of Science programme pathway (iBSc), which their medical students can undertake at UCL. Through this unique programme, UCL CIMEC supports students to gain a distinctive global outlook through their year in London and has developed and implemented a new range of activities and resources to support students to be successful.

Professor Christian Boehmer, head of department at UCL Mathematics, said "I am immensely proud of the Clinical Operational Research Unit (CORU) for their outstanding achievement in winning this prestigious award. By collaborating closely with our healthcare partners, CORU continues to lead the way in advancing patient care, health policy, and operational efficiency. Congratulations to Dr Zella King and the entire CORU team."

Professor Alan Thompson, Pro-Provost (London) and Dean of the Faculty of Brain Sciences, expressed his pride in UCL’s winners and all nominees. "We are incredibly proud of all’our nominees. They showcase the breadth of UCL’s excellence, from groundbreaking research to exceptional teaching and enriching student experience, exemplifying the positive impact UCL makes in London and beyond" he said.

Also in attendance was Amy Lightstone, Director of the UCL London Office and representatives of UCL’s three other shortlisted initiatives.

London Higher works to bring London institutions together to connect and showcase the benefit of the higher education sector for the benefit of the capital. The awards marked its 25th anniversary.

The London Higher partnership is managed by the Pro-Provost (London) Office.

Nick Hodgson

nick.hodgson [at] ucl.ac.uk

+44 (0)20 3108 1667
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