Healthcare’s love affair with data is rooted in a centuries-old tradition of rigorous medical testing and research, plus the need to keep detailed patient records. In recent times, the use of information has extended to the boardroom, as leaders seek to carve out new models of care.
Julie Boughn – Former Deputy Director, Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services former CIO, US
Healthcare’s love affair with data is rooted in a centuries-old tradition of rigorous medical testing and research, plus the need to keep detailed patient records. In recent times, the use of information has extended to the boardroom, as leaders seek to carve out new models of care. Respondents to KPMG’s crowdsourcing research project say that data is the main driver for transformation. Over two-thirds feel that their organization needs better data in order to change.
In the digital age, the volume of information is increasing exponentially, and there is a danger that the acquisition and analysis of data becomes an end in itself. Selecting the right data, in the right form, has become a critical task.
Every healthcare organization should place an opportunity cost on the data it collects, to ensure that it brings measurable value. Clinical staff should not be expected to waste precious time on gathering information that is never used. Distinguishing the useful from the useless is not as easy as it sounds, because in some cases the value only becomes apparent when data is fused with information from other sources.
The task of collecting data can often seem unimportant and distracting, so leaders need to publicize the positive impact of reports on the organization, to keep staff enthused. The UK’s University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) internationally recognized dataset has helped improve patient safety, and CEO Dame Julie Moore consistently highlights the use of the reports by senior staff.
Hospitals defined as being ‘highly reliable’ register specific outcomes, centrally and across departments, over the full continuum of care, and include these findings in the planning and management decisions. This gives a base from which to benchmark with other institutions, which in turn leads to rapid improvements and better analysis of the causes of accidents and adverse outcomes.
Data that is easy to access and interpret is far more likely to be used and circulated by staff, patients and the public, thus increasing its value.
UHB demonstrated the importance of first investing in usability before spending hard cash on data development. Together KPMG and UHB have developed an international hospital benchmark that enables hospitals to compare themselves, not just against the best in their country, but the best in the world. To date, over 300 hospitals from around the globe are included in this benchmark, and other universal initiatives are mushrooming.
University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) developed a new approach to using data because the time lag following a retrospective audit meant that clinicians were able to defend poor performance by claiming they had improved since the data was collected. UHB developed an information system which gathered real time patient safety information through the full application of technology. The first step in creating really useful data is to be able to make a strong case for its importance to the organization's overall mission. There was agreement that patient safety mattered to UHB and therefore collecting real time data on patient safety was a part of that mission rather than being data for data’s sake.
To ensure that data is used, the ease of presentation is important. So, UHB created simple dashboards that can be built up from wards to the whole hospital. These dashboards make it possible for managers to check whether staff are looking at the data, because if they are not looking at it regularly, then the data will not be used. If front line managerial staff know that their managers think this data is important enough to check on then they will follow and use the data.
With this real time, data led approach, mortality rates at UHB have fallen dramatically compared to other organizations.
Healthcare sector needs long-term thinking and persistence to solve today’s issues.