Working in healthcare currently, must feel like an insurmountable challenge. Unprecedented times. Trying to balance Covid 19 and BAU is stretching the service to the full – and creating ethical dilemmas by the bucket load: Who is a priority? Who has the highest risk? Who is escalating in risk? What have we missed? Hearing the plight of clinicians and patients (and families) is heart breaking. Of course, for every story of pain and suffering, there are 10 good ones. You rarely hear about these in the same way.
Having worked in healthcare with colleagues across the world, seeing success and where the improvements need to be made, it was interesting to be part of the healthcare system over the Christmas period. Firstly, I am forever grateful for the professionals who deal with the most traumatic of circumstances, whilst managing their own wellbeing. The worry of missing something or prioritising one patient over another is hard mentally.
So, as waiting lists are stretched due to the impact of Covid, the question is how do you manage and sustain BAU? Waiting for the resources to gallop over the hill is an unlikely prospect. So where does that leave us?
The first thing to do is truly understanding everything about your organisation: Process, people, and system. Its complex with hundreds of functions trying to operate in an efficient and integrated way. Without analytics shining a light through the organisation, optimising a healthcare system is very hard indeed. Data provides a golden connecting thread. Modern analytics can provide a huge opportunity to get a baseline understanding to support efficiency and effectiveness not seen before. Multiple systems and data sources need to be combined to provide a holistic, contextual 360 view of delivery. Key areas to understand include:
- Mapping processes e.g. patient flow
- Understanding process bottlenecks and opportunities
- Understanding and forecasting demand, capacity and capability
- Understanding productivity and how to increase it
- Measuring risk and escalation to aid prioritisation and compliance e.g. outpatients waiting lists, readmission, LOS etc
- Alerting to provide safety nets and early intervention opportunities
- Understanding and improving efficiency e.g. theatre utilisation, bed management
- Ensuring accurate financial planning, coding and cost recuperation
- Learning from successful outcomes e.g. clinical variation
- Understanding and improving data quality
- Bringing professional judgement into the analytics to support better context, decisions and action
- Understanding population health risks and early intervention opportunities across Integrated Care Systems
At a strategic level, how do your chief operating officers, directorate heads, managers and supervisors assure delivery and mitigate inherent risks associated against a high demand operational arena? It can be often a difficult and time-consuming process. Significant hearsay forms part of the decision making – things get missed.
Achieving assurance across the healthcare can be significantly bolstered by getting the following technology in place:
- Data integration
- Data cataloguing
- Self-serve analytics
- Advanced analytics e.g. predictive, prescriptive
All of these areas can be built into to a Command Centre approach – physical and virtual. For example, Morecambe Bay University Hospital Trust has developed a command centre structure, providing the lynchpin for how resources are optimised. From the emergency department to inpatients ready for discharge, the hub has been designed to give a tangible flow of insight to increase patient safety and experience. As a result, any employee from leadership to clinicians at the coal face can consume the data easily. With this new structure, the Morecambe Bay team holds short, focused, evidence-based staff meetings regularly throughout the day to get updates using live data.
Such transparency of information and the availability of analytics contributes to enhancing healthcare employees’ ability to work with data – improving their data literacy and giving them the means to thrive. Data-savvy organisations in the industry that are looking to adapt their workflows based on available data should first ensure that they get feedback from operational and clinical staff just as much as the IT team, to make sure that any results from changes to such a dynamic working environment can be maximised.
The next level is applying some 4th gen analytics where people are brought into the analytics value chain. When technology and people come together, the magic starts to happen. Enabling healthcare practitioners to see, interact and then ADD context to support better outcomes, across an entire organisation, becomes a real game changer.
There are several factors that have contributed to the evolution of working practices in the healthcare industry, but the omnipresence of data has proved to be the most important catalyst, evolving from the muse of the IT team to something which has become mission critical – a concrete and tangible impact on how staff go about their daily working lives. By merging human and technical factors with immersive tools that allow healthcare workers to integrate data into their decision making, the industry can relieve some of the pressure on it by ensuring staff at all levels are equipped to respond to whatever is thrown at them. Recent examples of using write-back tools to support rapidly changing Covid requirements is a good example.
As the world moves forward, treatment will grind services down to a point of surrender. Prevention is key. To create a sustained and successful health system, we must reduce demand, risk and harm – at the earliest point possible. This is the holy grail for an Integrated Care System. Getting a successful joined up approach between agencies, again will rely on analytics providing the golden thread to support understanding, risk identification, priority, better decision making and ACTION.
All the analytics technology is there right now. Experts are ready to support transformation, the front line is thirsty to consume it. This just needs to be led by innovative and collaborative data driven leaders. Are you one of these people?
Sean Price, VP Industry Solutions, Inphinity.