Effective use of data should be at the heart of healthcare management. It should inform all planning, action and decision making. After all, using data to inform diagnoses, treatment planning and evaluation is at the cornerstone of how clinicians care effectively for patients.
But this is often not the case. Data isn’t used effectively to inform some of the most important decisions that are made in healthcare management. At a patient level, that could mean a decision to cancel surgery because there isn’t enough certainty over whether a bed will be available. At an organisational level, that could mean significant additional costs or lost income resulting from a decision to unnecessarily cancel a whole elective list. At a system level, that could mean diversion of patients across providers and wholesale pathway changes based on anecdote rather than evidence.
So how do we change this?
As we move towards a more digital NHS, the quality of information and the need to access it is coming into ever-sharper focus. For acute providers, the groundswell has been building for a while. Electronic patient records are slowly becoming business as usual – enabling real time access, enhancing clinical decision making and improving both the patient experience and productivity. Centrally driven programmes like Getting it Right First Time and the Model Hospital are improving the use of information across Trusts – driving change and questioning quality, productivity and efficiency.
Yet the middle ground is lacking. Too often clinical leads, service managers and their supporting management and executive teams can’t access information that will enable more effective decision making. The raw data is often available, but translating this into meaningful insight doesn’t readily happen. Informatics teams lack the capacity or technical capability; financial constraints prevent meaningful investment in good quality information, and service managers are rarely supported to build skills in interpreting data and information to improve reporting.
How can we overcome these challenges?
NHS Trust’s sit on a wealth of data – unlocking and interpreting this data is the key to achieving benefits through insights. But how can this be done? Three things were evident at the Health and Care Innovation Expo 2017, held in Manchester last month:
Culture: Trusts making real in-roads recognise that using information more effectively isn’t just about making it available. There is a cultural change required to set and sustain expectations around the use of information in decision-making. And that cultural change starts from the top, as our innovation research makes clear
The right tools: Trusts must make it easy for people to access and understand information, enabling the triangulation of quality, performance and financial information at a level that supports targeted action. We must also acknowledge that clinicians and service managers rarely spend long sitting behind a desk – information should follow the user
Support to act: In giving people access to the right information, they must also be empowered to act on it. Especially where this involves breaking the status quo or challenging deep-seated conventions that lack a meaningful evidence base.
With these key elements, acute providers can start to deliver the changes that positively impact patient experience, care quality and efficiency.