A ‘clinical satnav’ for doctors could help improve patient care and should become a mainstream part of the NHS, a new report has suggested.

‘Building a ‘clinical satnav’ for practitioners and patients’ explores why providing better computerised advice for routine medical decisions will save lives and help to solve problems like over-prescription of antibiotics.

The report, commissioned by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, also argues that a ‘clinical sat-nav’ at the doctor’s fingertips could guide them on which tests to order, evaluation of the results, possible diagnoses, and produce options for care and treatments.

In order to achieve this, the report believes this requires accurate, standardised, computable forms of clinical guidance and systems that must be able to talk to each other across the UK.

BCS also states that computer-driven support for diagnosis and other clinical decisions must become a mainstream part of the NHS.

Dr Philip Scott, chair of BCS Health and Care, said: “Tech is vital to the NHS so we need to invest in the infrastructure and new ways of working for computable knowledge to be used to its full capacity.

“Computer-driven, healthcare decision support already exists to a limited extent, but we must catch up with other fields.”

Another part of the report looks at how a connected system of computable knowledge will take years off the time between research findings being published in journals to when they get adopted into clinical practice.

In the UK, important initiatives in this field are now underway by NHS England, Health Education England, NHS Scotland and NICE, said Dr Scott, who is a Programme Director at University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

The report, ‘Building a Clinical Satnav for Practitioners and Patients’ calls for those programmes to accelerate and move forward collaboratively. The paper outlines the challenges to overcome – technical, cultural, institutional, financial and strategic – for shifting research and healthcare systems into both creating and using computable knowledge.

It also highlights areas where computable knowledge and decision support would help healthcare professionals to reduce errors, enhance safety and quality.

BCS’ report follows the publication of a review led by Professor Ben Goldacre into health data which recommended that Trusted Research Environments (TREs) become “the norm” and are used as a way for researchers to access data and help build trust with the public.

Professor Goldacre, who is a Bennett professor of evidence-based medicine at the University of Oxford, was tasked with leading the review in February 2021 which aimed to look into how health data for research and analysis can be used efficiently and safely.