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Investing in people to reap the full benefits of data in the NHS

Data has the power to drastically improve patient care delivery within our healthcare services. From managing key operational issues, to identifying patterns to inform population health strategies, it’s clear to see why so many NHS trusts are actively exploring new ways data analytics can help them make better use of their resources and drive better patient outcomes. In fact, 84% of trusts reported that analytics has played a key role in supporting patient care and operations during the pandemic.

This is no flash in the pan trend. The majority of trusts have been investing in these solutions and taking positive steps towards becoming data-driven over the past few years. However, a new report from Qlik exploring the use of analytics throughout the NHS has shown that there are significant opportunities for the health and care sector to accelerate their use of data to transform and improve other areas of the health system.

However, one of the greatest challenges that many NHS trusts face in adopting a truly data-driven approach to healthcare management and patient care delivery is that a great number of their staff are not empowered to incorporate its insights as part of their decision-making process. Limited availability to analytics insights for frontline workers, combined with the widespread skills deficit in data literacy, presents a great hurdle that many trusts must first overcome.

There are some initial steps that NHS trusts can take that will help expand the use of data-informed decision making across their organisation, which in turn can have a tangible impact on care delivery and improve patient outcomes.

Making data part of healthcare decision-making

One obstacle healthcare workers face in using data as part of their decision-making process is often, insights are not readily available when they need them. For it to be successfully adopted into everyday working practices, accessing the valuable insights cannot become an additional layer of work for already time poor frontline workers.

To change this, trusts should look to make insights available to frontline staff when they’re making decisions – and, where possible, on devices and in software they already use.

One way to do this is through delivering timely insights to frontline workers’ mobile devices. For example, sending push-notifications to nurses to alert them to when a patient’s medication is required. By doing this, staff receive actionable insights straight to their pocket to ensure they have important information where and when they need it.

Another way to integrate data in healthcare professionals’ decisions-making is through an accessible hub with easy to digest patient insights on TV screens. University Hospital Morecambe Trust (UHMBT), for example, provides frontline staff with a Qlik Sense-powered Analytical Command Centre that offers insights into ambulances on the way to the hospital and developments in the emergency department. The upshot of the integration has been an increase in the number of patients triaged within 15 minutes from 65% to 95%.  By incorporating the analytics hub in staff’s daily decision-making, UHMBT has empowered its staff to make informed decisions based on real-time information, which has improved patient care, while reducing pressure on staff. The strategy has been so successful that, to date, seven NHS Trusts in London have adopted elements from the Analytical Command Centre to help them manage their response to Covid-19.

Fostering an engaged, data literate workforce

NHS trusts will also see clear benefits when they empower staff to become more confident and comfortable with using insights to inform their everyday decisions. Currently 12% of trusts report investing in data literacy training programmes, and an even smaller number (7%) provide this training to all employees. But when staff can confidently read, understand, question and take action from the insights they’re provided, it translates into greater adoption of data-informed decision making. So, it’s important that Trusts make sure that people are a key pillar of their data strategy with investments in education and training.

It’s also important to put those that will be using the tools at the heart of the design of any analytics tools or dashboards. Building them in collaboration with the end user will not only ensure they show the most pertinent insights and are delivered in the most convenient way, but typically also has a positive impact on adoption. Those that are involved become champions for the tools that they’ve helped designed, in turn making them advocates for the use of data in healthcare and encouraging more staff to adopt them. They also often become passionate about identifying further opportunities to use data to improve patient care – and it is truly only when you combine their expertise and experience of medicine, with an understanding of how data can further augment their ability to make real-time decisions, that the most exciting and leading-edge use cases are devised.

Helping frontline workers make better decisions, every time

Healthcare organisations are already seeing the impact data can have, and there is an opportunity for them to expand and accelerate data strategies to see more transformative benefits. By empowering workers to become more comfortable and confident with data, NHS trusts can work to integrate it into their decision-making processes.

When healthcare workers understand how analytics can augment their ability to make the right decision in the moment, to improve their delivery of care, using it will become second nature. And at this point, the NHS will truly begin reaping the potential rewards from its data.

To learn more about how data and analytics can underpin better healthcare, read the report from Qlik here.

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NHE May/June 2024

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