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Using data to improve the lives of urban residents

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Building a new solution for social prescribing

In 2012, Innovate UK’s Urban Living programme ran a Collaborative R&D funding competition which invited innovators to design solutions based on data integrated from across siloed urban bodies and which could improve the lives of urban dwellers.

One of the successful projects, led by the company Digital Algorithms Ltd, is building a new solution for social prescribing.

Social prescribing is a new and exciting development within the Social Care Sector, which enables primary care providers to refer patients with social, emotional or practical needs to a range of non-clinical services.

This leads to improvements in physical and mental wellbeing, whilst simultaneously developing community resources that promote independence, resilience and the sharing of skills, and reducing the demands on the NHS.

Examples of social prescriptions include:

  • learning groups
  • activity sessions
  • exercising
  • volunteering
  • use of community resources

This project is developing the concept of social prescribing into an integrated service user-focused system using data from various sources and the development of a brand new purpose-built software platform, ROVa.

Using technology to connect wellbeing service users

Meet our customers - Digital Algorithms, connecting community
Digital Algorithms, connecting your community

Using up-to-date technology, including smart-phone apps and web services, the solution helps service users connect with available resources in their locality and assist health professionals make appropriate referrals.

Successful completion of this project will produce an exciting, secure and scalable product which can be rolled-out in other parts of the country:

  • helping people to remain independent and healthy
  • freeing up appointments in GP practices and hospitals
  • finding cost-savings for the NHS

Piloting our technology in Bath

This project is underway in Bath and the surrounding area and uses technology developed specifically to connect health and social care providers with the public, increase the engagement of charities and third sector organisations and find new ways of helping people in need, particularly when health budgets are under strain and new models of care are needed.

Giving open access to publicly available wellbeing resources

Digital Algorithms, connecting people to wellbeing services
Digital Algorithms, connecting people to wellbeing services

Social prescribing is a model intended to help people find health and wellbeing through the use of publicly available resources, and without requiring traditional GP input or specialist medical therapy.

Social prescribing makes use of a huge and untapped resource in society – the many offerings available from small independent organisations as well as larger charities and third sector organisations, which together provide an array of courses, groups and activities at minimal cost.

The diversity of offerings is impressive, ranging from local reading groups and befriending services through to outdoor pursuits promoting fitness and friendship.

More dedicated resources include educational events for people newly diagnosed with diabetes or other conditions.

In almost all cases these activities are free of charge to the end user, and have been shown to increase wellbeing scores significantly.

Collaboration has led to real impact

This project has brought together a range of local agencies and providers, looking specifically at ways of reaching out to those in need of social prescribing.

The collaboration includes the local authority and the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), who, as commissioners, are in a position to feedback and guide progress in line with local policy.

Digital Algorithms Ltd have developed and supplied web solutions to the main organiser of Social Prescribing in BANES, the Wellbeing College. The Wellbeing college started as a pilot but is now going from strength to strength and is making a real impact upon Wellbeing opportunities locally.

Using data to show social prescribing has worked

One of the hardest things in Social Prescribing is to show that the service actually works! This is where the use of data is critical in this project. In fact, the project is based around the use of urban data, so the collaborators have spent a lot of time working on available datasets in the region.

Another major collaborator in this project is the Institute of Policy Research (IPR) at the University of Bath, which has experience in implementing strategic guidance in big projects. The University has been working very closely with Digital Algorithms and with the Wellbeing College to establish which urban data is useful in finding those in need of wellbeing services.

Intelligently matching users with wellbeing services

Digital Algorithms, social prescribing
Digital Algorithms, social prescribing

As the project moves forward the focus has settled on intelligently matching users with courses or activities. Analysis of the available data by the University has resulted in a phased approach to build a solution that helps guide users to a select number of suggested courses or activities.

Outcomes: smart wellbeing service, fewer visits to GP & a scalable solution ready for growth

One key innovation is the introduction of a smart algorithm, which can be refined to point people reliably to the most appropriate option, and in such a way that data will enhance and improve the sensitivity of the selection with each use.

This use of data is transformative in the healthcare arena since it shows how social prescribing works in a live environment, providing an effective engagement for service users who might otherwise need to visit the GP for signposting.

Each of the organisations in the collaboration has learned much about their role in the local wellbeing scene, and together the use of data has revealed exciting opportunities to expand services locally and to share experiences with other groups in the region and further afield.

For more information about Digital Algorithms Ltd and the ROVa software platform, please visit

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  1. Comment by Mike Thacker posted on

    Sounds like an excellent way of using data to reduce the demands on the NHS. Is the algorithm open and public or privately owned?

  2. Comment by Soulama Abdoulaye posted on

    Tres formidable. C'est un challenge qui doit absolument etre reellement experimente