A Digital Twin for combating a health crisis

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Case Study Overview

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nations across the globe, including the UK. Since the first confirmed case, the virus has had a significant impact on the country. The UK has experienced multiple waves of COVID-19 infections, resulting in a high number of cases, hospitalisations, and deaths.

A Digital Twin for combating a health crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nations across the globe, including the UK. Since the first confirmed case, the virus has had a significant impact on the country. The UK has experienced multiple waves of COVID-19 infections, resulting in a high number of cases, hospitalisations, and deaths.

The pandemic has also had wide-ranging social, economic, and political implications, including the implementation of strict lockdown measures, changes to working and learning patterns, and ongoing debates over government responses to the crisis. Despite the challenges, the UK has also made significant progress in its pandemic response, including the rollout of an effective vaccination programme.

This programme is the most extensive vaccination initiative ever implemented by NHS England. The supply chain involved is highly intricate, with some vaccines requiring ultra-cold storage and limited transportation. The NHS had to set up thousands of vaccination sites across three delivery models, and its staff had to manage the ordering of vaccines and supplies, communicate readiness, and monitor vaccination events.

Such an extraordinary situation, which very abruptly engulfed the entire world, required ground-breaking responses from the NHS. The NHS adopted a data-centric approach to gather evidence and enhance their efforts in keeping the public safe, and effectively responding to the virus.

By leveraging an unprecedented amount of data with remarkable speed and impact, the NHS enabled the administration of vaccine doses, documented any negative reactions, and – crucially – facilitated the mapping of individuals who have been vaccinated. In turn, this data has informed outreach efforts to address gaps in service provision and overcome vaccine hesitancy. To further consolidate this strategy, the NHS has engaged Palantir, an organisation that set up a live data integration platform.

Foundry

NHS Foundry serves as a platform for collecting, processing, and visualising large data sets related to the COVID-19 vaccination programme. Through Foundry, pseudonymised data is available to NHS staff and other key officials to support the vaccine rollout. The platform allows for the consolidation of data from all IT systems used in the vaccination process, which is then used to generate a series of reports and dashboards to support operational decision-making. <.p>

In addition to these features, eForms and tools were developed within NHS Foundry to assist users in various delivery models with tasks such as updating readiness levels, submitting situational reports, and ordering necessary supplies and equipment for the programme.

Foundry was utilised by NHS England and NHS Improvement to integrate vaccination events, supply chain, allocations, and performance KPIs, which are essential for the efficient and equitable national COVID-19 vaccination programme in England. With Foundry, users can perform data-driven prioritisation and decision-making on vaccine allocation, site selection, priority cohort uptake, and other aspects in real-time, resulting in a closed feedback loop that empowers users.

How does it work?

Foundry is a secure platform that brings together, unifies, and safeguards accurate and up-to-date information in one location to inform both strategic and operational decisions in response to the pandemic. By integrating data from disparate systems that would otherwise be incompatible, Foundry facilitates the consolidation of information and enables efficient data cleansing. The platform presents live data in a visually intuitive format, drawing connections between multiple sources of information.

Access to the data is controlled based on the user’s authorised level of access. Moreover, Foundry has purpose-based access control, and groups data for real-world needs. Thus, it captures who has access, for what reasons, and who approved it.

Essentially, Foundry provides a comprehensive view of activities (such as vaccine supply chain, demand, and distribution) taking place across various locations, which can be analysed and adapted by authorised personnel. Moreover, every time the data updates (which can be as often as once every minute), the platform is amended automatically. The live connection not only ensures that all users are looking at the same data, but also efficiently speeds up the process.

To support the response effort, several distinct applications have been created via Foundry, each with a different purpose. Some of those include:

  • Ensuring the readiness of vaccination sites across England, including data submission, reporting, and supply allocation.
  • Managing the ordering of vaccines and consumables, irrespective of their individual ordering processes.
  • Enabling the Royal Logistics Corps (RLC) and the NHS to make accurate and prioritised decisions regarding vaccine delivery. By using Foundry’s automated integrations with logistics partners, the RLC and NHS facilitated the transportation of vaccines and essential equipment from source to destination.
  • Providing secure and automated reporting to all stakeholders, ranging from GPs seeking to evaluate their performance in their Primary Care Network to Ministers monitoring aggregated performance at a national level.

Local clinicians, for instance, use Foundry as an analytical tool: the platform provides information related to the number of administered vaccines, the location, and the beneficiary. Additionally, it shows key statistics based on the uploaded information and breaks down vaccination events. It offers the granularity of the picture required for decision making. This information is fed into the GOV.UK website.

Foundry also provides senior officials with national data, simulations, modelling, and analysis to aid policy and strategic decision-making. Moreover, Foundry provides local NHS and government organisations with a comprehensive view of COVID-19 trends both nationwide and in their specific area, enabling them to take appropriate local actions.

Benefits

Foundry has played a crucial role in the NHS’s largest-ever endeavour in operational data integration. It has enabled the creation of a single source of truth for tracking various aspects of the vaccine rollout, including supply levels, vaccinated individuals, and low uptake areas, as repeatedly stated by several interviewees. This consolidated data has been used to inform decision-making and even model potential scenarios.

Foundry was also used to model and simulate the vaccine supply chain, from production to distribution to administration. By creating a tool that optimises the entire supply chain, officials could identify potential bottlenecks or inefficiencies, and develop strategies to optimise the process. This helped ensure that vaccines were manufactured, shipped, and administered efficiently and effectively. For instance, as of November 2021, over 750 million pieces of equipment had been ordered, allocated, delivered, and documented through Foundry, which is one of the principal tools used in the programme.

Finally, Foundry was used to monitor the vaccine rollout in real-time. By creating a digital twin of the entire vaccination programme, officials could track the number of vaccines administered, identify any issues or delays, and make real-time adjustments as needed. This helped ensure that the vaccination programme was on track to meet its goals and that the vaccines were reaching the most vulnerable populations first.

Vaccine Equalities Tool

The vaccine equality tool was introduced within Foundry to support the vaccination programme levelling the different uptakes of the vaccine depending on communities. This tool enabled the identification of individuals who had received the vaccine and their location based on socio-demographic factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, and GP registration.
The tool also provided data on vaccine uptake among different groups, including health and care staff, clinically vulnerable individuals, and care home residents. Additionally, the tool recorded the ethnicity of those vaccinated using the 16 census categories.

The tool enabled the programme to monitor vaccination rates not only on a national or regional level, but also at a local level. This perspective allowed the programme to identify areas where additional efforts were needed to encourage vaccination, such as pop-up vaccination sites or mobile vans.

Overall, Foundry played a major role in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination program in the UK. The implementation of the platform helped public health officials, researchers, and businesses respond to the crisis. It helped ensure that the process was efficient, safe, and effective, and helped the country make significant progress in its efforts to control the spread of the virus.

Thank you to Anna Neely and Ben Robinson, whose insights and perspectives were incredibly valuable in helping us understand how Foundry was utilised in the COVID-19 vaccination programme.