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27.07.20

Using data to improve population health in the NHS

Adam Mayer, Senior Manager, Qlik

Times of crisis often create an environment for innovation to thrive. Indeed during the Covid-19 pandemic, most NHS trusts (84%) accelerated the development of new data analytics use cases that support frontline staff and manage key resources. The rapid adoption of analytics by the NHS to manage their response to the pandemic revealed how an ongoing data strategy across public health organisations could play a key role in improving population health.

Access to real-time patient data enabled healthcare providers to track and monitor patients with the virus and safely manage their care. This stress-test on our healthcare services revealed that there is massive potential to apply the same, data-driven approach to patient care delivery which, by sharing analysis between different health and care organisations in secure and governed ways, could support earlier interventions to improve patient outcomes and alleviate pressure on its limited resources.

Successful data strategies during the pandemic

The pandemic showed just how effective shared data analysis can be in improving outcomes for not just one organisation, but across the wider health and care network. An example of this is StockWatch, a Qlik Sense application created by AdviseInc in partnership with Catalyst BI, to provide public sector organisations with access to accurate, near real-time data on personal protective equipment (PPE) logistics. More than 200 public sector organisations, including 70 NHS trusts, have been using the free app to track and share essential PPE to ensure frontline staff have access to the correct equipment to continue saving lives.

Public sector organisations, which are typically disparate and disconnected, have been able to use the app to come together to manage regional stock and identify where one organisation has surplus stock that another requires. In Greater Manchester, for example, 26 different public services are using this application – across healthcare, local authorities, and transport providers – to better forecast demand and distribute resources. Neil Hind, GM NHS Procurement Programme Director for Greater Manchester, commented that this “ultimately, […] allowed us to ensure we have the right equipment to allow our essential workers to continue caring for patients.”

Expanding the use of analytics to support population health initiatives

The StockWatch application has demonstrated the benefits of health and care organisations sharing data for analysis for logistics – but there are is also a significant opportunity to apply its learnings to patient care delivery.

Population health is a part of the NHS Long Term Plan to alleviate growing pressure on the health service, aggravated by a shortage of healthcare workers, as well as a growing and aging population, and allow more patients be treated in the comfort of their home.

In Qlik’s recent report, Using data and analytics to underpin better healthcare, NHS data leaders highlighted how data is the key to ensuring that initiatives are able to identify at risk patients and effectively manage their care. Securely shared data for analysis allows public services to identify trends, spot opportunities to improve care in the community and implement early invention strategies.

However, currently just 45% of trusts are part of a multi-agency integrated network that shares data for analysis and only 60% of data tools used in NHS trusts are capable of identifying population health patterns and risk stratification.

For a population health data strategy to be effective, shared data needs to be analysed to provide a complete picture of patients’ health. This not only helps healthcare professionals identify individual opportunities for early intervention, but also wider patterns in the community’s health and wellbeing.

Opportunity for accelerated use of data

The pandemic created an environment where many NHS trusts were forced to innovate to keep up with demand. The pressure drove the creation and implementation of tools like StockWatch, which proved critical in keeping trusts stocked with PPE so its frontline workers could continue saving lives. This situation revealed that rapidly accelerating the NHS’s use of data, particularly when shared with other health and care organisations, has potential to support a more connected and holistic care delivery model.

Considering just the immediate benefits the NHS has experienced from its increased use and secured sharing of data during a crisis, the long-term opportunities are clearly massive. The positive outcomes from data strategies during the pandemic will, in all likelihood, encourage more health and care organisations to adopt similar processes of sharing data in secured and governed ways for a wider analysis reach that can help them more effectively serve their communities.

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