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Linking patient data makes life-saving medicine available to vulnerable people

Close up of a male clinician leaning over a tablet wearing a stethoscope and holding a stylus.

17 June 2022

Thousands of vulnerable people in Wales who test positive for COVID-19 are being given easy access to anti-viral medication thanks to a partnership between Digital Health and Care Wales (DHCW) and  Wales’ National Antiviral Service (NAVS).  

DHCW has been able to compile a list of over 60,000 patients with underlying health conditions. By linking this patient data with positive COVID-19 tests, NAVS has been able to rapidly provide potentially lifesaving medicine to those who are particularly vulnerable to hospitalisation.   

This ground-breaking work to link data has helped to reduce the strain on Welsh hospitals and increased the accessibility of healthcare by making individuals aware of the anti-viral treatment available to them.

Towards the end of 2021, anti-viral treatment became available for those who had tested positive for COVID-19. This treatment needed to be taken within five days of contracting the virus to diminish symptoms and reduce the risk of hospitalisation.  

As the treatment is time sensitive, DHCW was enlisted by NAVs to compile a list of patient medical records identifying people with underlying health conditions. 

The next step was to link this data with positive COVID-19 tests so that DHCW could provide a daily report of those who had contracted the virus and were eligible for treatment. This report is sent to NAVs every morning with patients being contacted from 8am each day.  

Recently, DHCW has been able to adapt this tool to the changes happening within COVID-19 testing nationally. As people swap their PCR tests for LFT tests, DHCW has been able to ensure self-reported tests are included in the eligible cohort.  

The adaptability of the informatics team within DHCW has reduced the time of someone testing positive for COVID-19 and receiving time-sensitive, life-saving treatment by days.  

Andrew Evans, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, also hopes that this system serves to reduce inequality within healthcare by removing the onus from the patient to have an awareness of the medication that is available to them, “often those who have a higher level of health literacy tend to come from more affluent communities. They are more likely to be aware of the treatment available to them and get access to treatment sooner. However, by contacting the patients directly based on their needs, we can break down inequalities in access to healthcare. 

"This is a great example of how digitalising the NHS provides a more seamless way of delivering healthcare.”

This service has had a significant impact on the fight against COVID-19 with approximately 3,000 people being treated with antiviral antibody treatment since December 16th 2021, when the service first went live.