• CQC will use machine learning to target actions by inspectors
  • Ian Trenholm pledges to make the CQC an easier organisation to do business with
  • Digital transformation of CQC systems will mean less requirements for bespoke information

Artificial intelligence will help the Care Quality Commission to identify care failures and help target inspections where the risk is highest, HSJ has learned.

In an interview with HSJ, the regulator’s new chief executive Ian Trenholm said he wanted to bring in new ways of making the CQC more intelligence led in its work, including the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Setting out his vision for the CQC, Mr Trenholm paid tribute to his predecessor Sir David Behan for his work on turning the CQC around, but said he now wanted to focus on making internal improvements that would make the CQC “easier to do business with”.

Last month, the CQC posted a notice inviting suppliers to express interest in helping it develop an artificial intelligence tool to aid inspectors in deciding what action to take. Methods Analytics has been awarded a £22k contract for the initial work.

Mr Trenholm said: “In headline terms it’s about decision support for our teams so, when they’re making a decision about whether to look at a particular setting, they will look at the range of information and intelligence that’s available to them.”

He said machine learning from past inspections and data the CQC holds would be looked at by humans before decisions were made.

Mr Trenholm said the CQC’s intelligence driven aim was not about a “data conversation” but using a range of sources, including whistleblowers and families reporting their experiences.

Asked to rate CQC’s use of data, he said: “At a basic level, it’s pretty good but I think we could definitely do better.”

On his vision for the CQC, Mr Trenholm said: “My role is different to [Sir David Behan’s] in the sense that David took the CQC from where it was in 2012-13 to the highly-respected organisation it is today. I am very conscious I am inheriting that legacy, which is a very strong one.

“The job I have been brought in to do is to move the organisation onto the next chapter, improving from the inside out. My job is to look at our processes, our technology, the way we do our business and improve that to make us an easier organisation to deal with and more accessible to the public.”

He said the CQC was “far from perfect”, adding: “We are not an easy organisation to do business with. We have a lot of manual processes and are not as digitally enabled as people would like.

“The amount of information we require from a hospital prior to an inspection is significant. I would like to get to a point where that is an easier process for a hospital and we require less bespoke information.”

Mr Trenholm said the digital transformation of services would cost money but it was unclear what the final price would be. He is intending to appoint a chief digital officer and to replace what he called “legacy” computer systems over the next three to four years.

He recently told MPs he wanted to open up the CQC’s data to the general public. He explained: “My observation is that, at the moment, our reports try to sit in the middle ground of being useful to the public and useful to the trusts. But is there a way we can make the data more available to other people?”

He said an example of this could be third party apps which take a data feed of CQC information in a similar way to apps taking travel data from the London transport system.

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