Improving patient outcomes through better data practices

By Charlie Farah, Director, Solutions & Value Acceleration, Healthcare & Public Sector, Qlik
Tuesday, 21 March, 2023

Improving patient outcomes through better data practices

Data impacts nearly everything we do, yet staff at about 67% of organisations still say they would follow their gut over the guidance of data, according to our latest research.

Healthcare organisations, where new challenges arise every day, can be especially vulnerable to this way of thinking, and tend to view past experience as a sufficient response mechanism. This can work, but when it doesn’t, the consequences can be severe. Why? Because when new situations arise outside of one’s scope of practice — which they so often do in healthcare settings — the rule of thumb fails.

Thankfully, about 87% of executives now expect their teams to explain how data informed their decision-making processes. In health care, this means empowering organisations to build and adopt a more data-driven culture that fosters better decision-making and improves patient outcomes.

Below are four key strategies, and some success stories, that can help healthcare practitioners use data to make informed decisions every day.

Big vs wild

By now, you may realise data is important for healthcare organisations to improve service delivery. But it is also important to note that we’re not talking about big data here. Big data is locked up in different silos, can be largely unusable or require substantial effort to manually analyse and correlate.

Instead, the world is working towards wide data. Wide data breaks down those data silos and links data from multiple sources to deliver a more complete analysis. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 70% of organisations will be compelled to shift their focus from big data to wide data, providing more context for analytics and making AI less data hungry.

A real-life example of the usefulness of wide data comes from the Activity Based Management (ABM) platform launched by NSW Government Health. The ABM portal, powered by Qlik, enables practitioners to view the entire patient journey — across healthcare settings and through multiple data systems. For NSW’s local health districts, this has resulted in more efficient delivery of services and higher value care.

Governance, not dictatorship

Data-driven decision-making creates an improvement focused leadership culture, nurtures a data-friendly environment and encourages curiosity from employees. But to make such a workplace culture a reality, data needs to be accessible via self-service.

Self-service here does not mean everyone can create, change and copy data. Rather, to develop a well-governed self-service environment. This means IT departments hold the ability to manage both the data and the access, while staff have the freedom to interact, analyse and share assets and results.

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD), one of the largest local health districts in New South Wales, is a leader in this space. With our support, WSLHD has successfully adopted a governed self-service model, enabling clinicians to access and use integrated data for better patient care — while maintaining governance and compliance with the data.

Data literacy and better patient care

I want to emphasise here that no one needs to be a data scientist, but it is important be data-literate enough to analyse, question and communicate data. And staff with more data literacy are able to use data to make better decisions when it is part of their workflow.

In a healthcare setting, this equates to having robust data literacy programs in place so that workers and administrators read from the same script and work to the same standards across all settings — from primary to hospital, to recovery and home. Continuity of care in the modern-day healthcare workplace depends greatly on collective data literacy. Not only so patients transition smoothly from one setting or clinician to the next, but also so workers feel a sense of empowerment and efficacy across their scope of practice.

The Capital and Coast District Health Board (CCDHB) in New Zealand is one such organisation that has been building a data-driven decision-making culture through literacy. Not only does it foster greater data engagement, but it also encourages feedback to continuously improve insights and actions.

Empower your people

Of course, wide data, governed self-service and data literacy all need to be supported by technology. With the right technology, healthcare organisations can foster data-driven cultures that empower healthcare employees through informed decision-making processes, rather than through the ‘ask, wait, answer’ cycle, and improve patient outcomes.

The NSW Health Sydney Local Health District is leading the charge when it comes to workforce empowerment with its world-first application, which places real-time data into the hands of clinicians combating the opioid epidemic. Such innovative use of data analytics has allowed a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, researchers and IT experts to significantly reduce the time required for data-based research into unwarranted clinical variation.

An experienced healthcare CEO once told me, “There is no such thing as plagiarism in health care. We are all challenged by the same issues and seek to develop similar solutions. So if one person identifies something that works and shares it, others can learn and improve from your success.”

This is what my team and I pride ourselves on, fostering learning and growth in our healthcare community and developing data-driven solutions for them.

Healthcare organisations must empower practitioners, increase their data literacy and improve their curiosity of data — we know that better informed healthcare workers make the best decisions, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes.

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