Unlocking data's potential in health care

By Sharryn Napier, Vice President and Regional Director, ANZ at Qlik
Thursday, 23 January, 2020

Unlocking data's potential in health care

Data is the lifeblood of every healthcare organisation. In spite of this, there are issues with both the availability of and access to information, which is keeping healthcare organisations from effectively using their data to meaningfully impact lives and improve patient care.

Data analytics is often discussed as the catalyst for change — helping practitioners uncover insights that improve operations, while also increasing care quality and efficiency. But let’s get one thing straight — even if a hospital provides access to the relevant data to every employee today, a lack of data literacy (that is, an individual’s knowledge of how to use and analyse data) will limit its potential. Healthcare organisations must find a cure that will address both data challenges: access to and use of information. The emerging methodology known as DataOps can help on both fronts.

DataOps is a new approach to agile data integration that looks at the challenge from a holistic perspective of people, process and technology. It focuses on improved collaboration and automation of data flows across an organisation. When done correctly, it helps organisations manage and use their data in real time for maximum operational and customer benefit.

Fighting the data access challenge

As the amount of health data being created increases daily, issues of how to capture and manage it more efficiently have emerged. Part of a DataOps strategy involves allowing appropriate real-time access (for all users) to data for analytics — while keeping it protected accordingly.

Health providers looking to implement DataOps require a data management platform that has continuous data integration, to ensure it can deliver the real-time analytics required. Tools like change data capture (CDC) will ensure any data changes that occur across core application systems and databases (eg, small changes to a patient profile or updates to treatments and prescriptions) will update quickly across the entire system. Furthermore, open IT architectures based on hybrid or multi-cloud provide the best efficiency and agility to improve patient care and increase operational efficiencies.

Remaining data compliant

Healthcare organisations must track where data is located and how it is being used at all times to remain compliant with government regulations. In an age of increased scrutiny on health record management, thanks to the My Health Record discussions and ongoing privacy complaints from patients to the Office of the Information Commissioner, practitioners must work hard to improve patients’ perceptions of data governance practices in health care. A core component of a DataOps framework is the creation of an enterprise data catalogue — an internal marketplace that lists what data is available for analysis. The marketplace informs clinicians, doctors and staff on how the data was collected, shared and modified, along with the associated access rights. The catalogue also provides additional governance capabilities to drive transparency, such as masking personally identifiable information to ensure regulatory compliance.

Raising your organisation’s data health

Data is no value to a healthcare provider if users don’t understand what it is, or how to use it. It’s the data-literate healthcare organisations that will be able to uncover valuable insights in time to truly transform patient care.

In the case of Sydney Local Health District (SLHD), the implementation of its STARS (Sydney Local Health District Targeted Activity and Reporting System) Back Pain App enables healthcare professionals to treat lower back pain (and reduce overprescription of opioid treatments) by delivering meaningful data to the frontline. More than 50,000 patients present with back pain to emergency departments in NSW every year. Of these patients, 70% are given opioids despite known harm, 30% receive unnecessary imaging and 17% are admitted to hospital. Given back pain reduces Australia’s GDP by an estimated $3.2 billion a year, there’s a huge opportunity to improve clinical practice.

By bringing together information that was previously siloed across electronic medical record systems — such as patients’ demographics, diagnoses, allied health service review, pain medicines used, pathology tests, diagnostic imaging, costs of care and patients’ admission status — STARS collates these in a governed, real-time manner and presents the data back to clinicians through an intuitive interface. The easy-to-understand dashboard allows staff to quickly access summaries of patients with lower back pain while highlighting clinical variations. Healthcare professionals are able to compare data across hospitals to compare treatment plans and patient data, which in turn ignites conversations about trends, prescription rates and overall patient care.

Like the team at SLHD, taking data to the next level should be a priority for the healthcare sector. Healthcare organisations must bring together the teams working with and using data through the adoption of modern technologies. This is how DataOps was born, to fill in the gap and break internal silos, so all departments and executives can unlock the full potential of their data for improved patient care and experience.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/AndSus

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