Medical transfusion equipment, called a cell separator, which collects human blood and separates it … [+]
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Blood cancer is one of the most common and deadliest forms of cancer, with stats showing that 40,000 people are diagnosed and 15,000 die in the UK every year.
For those diagnosed with blood cancer, finding someone who can provide a stem cell transplant could be their only way to survive this deadly disease.
According to British cancer charity Anthony Nolan, around five people start looking for a matching donor every day. That equates to more than 2,000 people needing bone marrow or stem cell transplant annually.
Founded in 1974, the charity aims to save the lives of people with blood cancer by matching them with stem cell donors. It recruits donors through a national register.
“Finding a match often depends on tissues types and on patient ethnicity; currently, only 69% of patients can find the best possible match from a stranger, and this drops dramatically to 20% for patients from a black, Asian or ethnic minority background,” says Franky Stephenson, head of business intelligence at Anthony Nolan.
“There are over 750,000 potential donors ready and waiting to save someone’s life, but part of the challenge lies in onboarding them in a timely manner.”
But the organization has lacked an effective system to manage growing datasets and ensure regulatory compliance. Stephenson says: “Historically, we have had to rely on searching through huge data lakes in Excel and other platforms in order to compile all disparate data elements to compare a donor for matching to a patient.?
“This process took hours and hours each month – vital time that could help save a person’s life – and it was because of this that we decided to embark on a data transformation journey.”
Looking to accelerate the donor registration process and use data insights to help save more lives, Anthony Nolan has implemented the Alteryx analytics platform as part of a digital transformation drive.
“By using analytics and workflow automation we’ve been able to speed up, widen and deepen our data quality in order to make our amazing, life-saving stem cell donors better available to the search algorithms,” says Stephensen.
“We’ve moved from eight-hour timeframes to minutes, equating to over 200 hours per year. It has turned out to be the most enormous opportunity; in 2019, we were able to route an applicant through registration, matching and then donation in a record time of just under four months. It’s an incredible feeling.”
Stephenson believes that this technology can help continue the great work of the charity’s founder, Shirley Nolan. He continues: ““Now, with clean, organised and easily accessible information, we can focus on how to ‘think more like Shirley’ – that is, the mother of Anthony Nolan who first set up the stem cell register in a hospital car park back in 1974. All the amazing work we do started with her, and now we have the ability to innovate and move forward with “Shirley-worthy” ideas at pace.”
In the near future, the charity hopes to expand its data analysis capabilities by using artificial intelligence and predictive models. Stephenson adds: “We are only half way through this journey, and there is plenty more that this data-led approach can do for us.
“We’re looking at deploying some predictive models to propel our work even further, using AI to generate more multivariate analyses, more hypothesis generation and even more evidence-based decision making to maintain and grow personalised journeys with our supporters throughout their lifetime of contact with us.”