In our latest Industry Spotlight, Lizzie Cernick speaks to Paul Martin and Manuel Reyes from Cognizant about what sets the company apart from everyone else and why the right data in healthcare is so important.
When Paul Martin, head of UK health at Cognizant, first came to the UK from the United States 22 years ago, he wasn’t expecting to stay for the long haul. After launching his career in Boston in healthcare software, he was invited to London to help develop technology at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in 2000. With so many opportunities to make a difference in healthcare in the UK, he eventually made the decision to continue forging his career there and three years ago, he joined Cognizant to build its UK health and social care offering. The goal was to combine the company’s data and digital expertise with the empathy of healthcare, to translate high-quality data into tangible benefits for patients.
“It was exciting because we were really bringing this new business to the UK,” Martin explains.
“It was not your typical outsourcing consulting company, but a data-driven, digital business really focussed on healthcare.”
Like Martin, Cognizant’s chief architect for UK Health, Manuel Reyes, was also motivated by his desire to create better health and care services for people.
“I have been working in health tech since the late 90s, which has included work for big system suppliers, secondary care, maternity systems, community pharmacy and more,” he says.
“When I say healthcare IT saves and improves lives – I truly mean that. We help clinicians to help patients when they most need it.”
Reyes joined Cognizant because they were in the market for the right reasons.
“I had the opportunity to expand my expertise around technology, but it was more than that,” he says.
“This company is really working to improve health, not just expanding for business reasons. It’s not about taking on the best paying contracts, but the ones where we can make the biggest difference.”
What makes Cognizant different?
While both Martin and Reyes agree there are many digital businesses doing ground-breaking work, they believe that Cognizant stands out from the crowd.
“If you take an AI specialist, they will know all about a machine learning model, but might miss the complexity of data in the NHS,” explains Reyes.
“The NHS is not one single organisation, but a network of thousands with different data silos and data needs. We provide the pipelines to bring the data together into something that can be consumed for a particular purpose. We have the capability to re-engineer processes around technology and in a health setting.”
Such processes are already being used in healthcare, and, with the right data, could be further expanded. For example, machine learning to process diabetic retinopathy scans will help clinicians to prioritise their workloads and better serve patients who might be at most risk, and require further assessment as swiftly as possible.
“It’s better for patients and clinicians. For anything that’s a repeatable task, the tech exists to automate this today, meaning that clinical staff will have more time to spend on the issues that require human interaction,” says Reyes.
However, for these processes to work effectively, data must be high-quality.
“It all comes back to curating your data in a way that’s usable,” explains Martin.
“We have vast experience in taking all these different data sources and synthesising them, but outcomes are only as good as the data that you have.”
Cognizant recognises that the NHS is committed to improving the quality of data, and it’s one of the reasons they are working so closely with them.
“We’re seeing a lot of work towards interoperability. It’s not a solved problem, but it’s heading in the right direction,” says Reyes.
For the next 30 years, he knows that healthcare chiefs will continue to develop the ways informatics can be used, but these opportunities can only be safely delivered on strong data foundations, meaning the opportunities are endless.
“Some people talk about explainable AI, so that it explains how it made a decision. But how can we get it to a point where we can trust the process to deliver it, and how do we use and apply it?” he asks.
“This isn’t just a technical question, this is clinical, privacy and more. The broad spectrum of expertise that Cognizant has, gives it the capability to help its health customers reach the right answers for them.”
By truly harnessing the expertise of data architects and data science experts, along with a deep understanding of health and social care, the company will work collaboratively with the UK health sector to maximise the positive impact of these technologies, setting itself apart from others in the market.
Why is the right data so important?
High-quality data isn’t just about accuracy, it’s also about being able to filter the information that can be used by any system. While Cognizant’s partnership with the Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One team (AMF1) team might not seem like the most obvious link to health and social care, for Martin and Reyes, it provides an excellent example of effective data use.
“A Formula One car going around a lap of a track has approximately 300 sensors, all taking readings,” says Martin.
“Every second that information is pipelined into the pit lane. And then, in real-time, is curated and pipelined again to their headquarters in Silverstone.”
On race days teams utilise data-driven dashboards, reports and alerts to monitor performance, making real-time decisions based on the data that they’re receiving.
“We’ve got teams inside Cognizant that are working with AMF1 to build those real-time views and decision-making systems,” Reyes says.
“The same logic can be applied to the data used in health settings. I can take out the reference to Aston Martin Formula One and put in the word NHS, hospital or patient. It’s the mobilisation of good quality data that enables all of this.”
For Cognizant, the next steps will be to work with health and social care organisations to determine exactly how the data should be used and how much needs to be curated.
“If, for example, an Apple watch was collating continuous data into a GP record, it would rapidly become an overwhelming volume of information. What we’re working on is taking that data and making it useable,” explains Reyes.
“The key here is surfacing the right amount of data, to the right people, at the right time. These factors are core to making good quality data insights consumable.”
Building on strong foundations
To date, the company has worked on many projects to support the NHS, while fully backing its Data Saves Lives strategy. In addition to working on the Covid Pass project, which helped to facilitate our emergence from lockdowns in 2021, they have developed close relationships with NHS Digital.
“We’ve been helping them amalgamate data into their ServiceNow platform. For this work we’ve been nominated as the Transformation Project of the Year with the ERP Today Awards,” says Martin.
Meanwhile, the company has also been working on data pipelining, as well as discovery work around data platforms. Rather than ripping out and replacing systems, the company works collaboratively with the NHS and its integrated care systems to use the assets that are already there.
“I have five customer Microsoft Teams accounts on my Cognizant system, so that I can work easily with different customers,” says Martin.
“We get embedded into organisations. That’s how we participate, collaborate and integrate.”
For the NHS, behavioural and cultural change will be a core part of success in digitisation, and this is something Cognizant fully supports.
“We come at it from a service design perspective. We want to understand how or why someone is going to use this before we even come to design and implement any technology. What are you trying to solve? Who needs access? When? Why? These are the questions that we need to ask from the outset,” says Martin.
Reyes agrees that everything needs to be led by clinicians and patients, not technology. For example, hospital smart cards are perfect from a design perspective, but not useability. For every 15 seconds a clinician wastes with a smart card, it’s hours when you add it up,” he explains.
As the company quietly becomes more widely known and continues its focus on delivery, the ‘people first’ mantra will carry on.
“Ultimately our goal is to look at pain points to understand where we can deliver and how we can support more effective services, leading with the empathy of health,” Reyes concludes.