Artificial intelligence could improve the lives of patients thanks to new partnership

  • Date

    Fri 10 Jan 20

A new partnership between Essex and leading primary care services company Firza could lead to significant improvements to health services and patient care.

Essex researchers will team up with healthcare industry disrupter Firza for a 28-month Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) to improve and introduce a range of innovative services.

The KTP will allow Firza to use intelligent computer systems to deal with repetitive, high-volume tasks such as non-attendance letters or medication change forms, which will free up staff to deal with services that are more complex.

This automation will enable Firza to deal with increasing patient numbers, focus on training the current workforce and employ more software and IT specialists to keep on innovating.

Firza is led by qualified and experienced pharmacists who are dedicated to providing time and cost-saving solutions for GP practices, primary care networks and NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) across the UK.

The company employs a team of pharmacists, clinicians, technical and administrative support staff to provide GP surgeries with respiratory, cardiovascular and diabetes clinics, as well as care home and home-bound patient support.

The Innovate UK funded partnership will allow Firza to grow its client-base more quickly and increase the size of its contracts so the company can expand into wider UK and global markets in healthcare.

In 2020, the healthcare market in the UK will be worth over £127 billion (Institute for Fiscal Studies, 2017) of which administrative services provision to GP surgeries accounts for £160 million. By freeing up the time of NHS staff this partnership could potentially make the NHS more productive - helping it save money on staff costs.

“We are really excited to get this project off the ground. Our model of centralising non-patient-facing tasks has received a lot of traction. This method is freeing up time for clinicians at GP practices across the country which allows them to see more patients.”
Asim Mirza Managing Director at Firza

Asim continues: “We are committed to increase resilience and ensure that services remain sustainable – in line with the NHS Long-Term Plan. Our model will be further improved by developing the technology with the help of experts from the University of Essex. Ultimately, the patient wins!”

Two leading computer scientists from Essex will lead the project Dr Alba Garcia who is an expert in information retrieval and image processing and Dr Faiyaz Doctor, who specialises in the development and application of machine learning.

“As researchers, we will contribute to this project by sharing new knowledge and innovation. Our research will improve existing Firza products, enhancing quality of clinician’s daily routine at GP practices.”
Dr Alba Garcia Lecturer, School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering at Essex 

A research associate will be appointed to work with the company on the deployment of new technological solutions.

Essex is one of the top three universities in the UK for its number of Innovate UK-funded projects, and ranks as the leading university in the East of England and London for KTPs.

Robert Walker, Head of Business Engagement at the Essex, said: "Automation of structured, routine business tasks using the spectrum of Artificial Intelligence enables organisations of any type or size to use human resource in a more value added way. At Essex, our portfolio of industrial collaborations under the AI umbrella continues to grow with sectors ranging from healthcare to legal and financial services."

"The project with Firza opens up exciting and novel research challenges at the bleeding edge of Natural Language Processing with the potential to have significant positive impact on GP practices, CCGs and ultimately the patient experience."
Robert Walker Head of Business Engagement at the University of Essex

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) are Innovate UK’s flagship mechanism for collaboration. They connect businesses and social enterprises across the UK with expertise, cutting-edge technology and research in our universities and link them up with ambitious graduate talent.