A healthcare data strategy is crucial to ensuring that we can tackle all the biggest health issues we face, and to guarantee guided decision-making to save lives
It’s no surprise that a recent Qlik study found that employees working in healthcare reported that their use of data and its importance in decision-making has more than doubled over the past year. Healthcare data strategies can tackle large health problems, and help hospitals understand patients better, too.
Healthcare professionals rely on data more than ever before, and its importance has been outlined by the government in its recently announced ‘Data Saves Lives’ policy paper. The policy sets out ambitious reforms for the health and care sector by transforming how data is used to drive breakthroughs and efficiencies. The policy also helps to tackle the COVID-19 backlog and create a system that is fit for the future.
With accurate and timely data, healthcare professionals can offer better quality and accurate care to their patients. Here are three considerations for Trusts when looking to implement a data strategy.
Augment & automate
It’s important to think about the technology that will be used when implementing a healthcare data strategy.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be highly beneficial for healthcare professionals. AI can shift through huge volumes of data to spot patterns and outliers more efficiently and provide predictive capabilities that can help Trusts with capacity and demand planning. AI can greatly augment human ability. I like the idea of a machine detecting a potential health problem before it becomes an issue, but I want a human doctor to explain it and what treatment plans are available. However, AI is not a one-way street, ethics is a key consideration. Frequent monitoring and checks should be carried out, for example to minimise representation bias that could affect patient care.
Automation can improve data quality and data sharing by ensuring fresh and relevant data is provided when it’s needed, in near real-time, for example, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is one of the systems that can automate data flows, not only between different digital systems but also with partners which can improve safer sharing for healthcare professionals. Automation can also take care of the time consuming and tedious tasks thus freeing staff to focus on more complex tasks.
Upskill your staff’s data literacy
Understanding why data is important and providing systems to store and share data is one part of the puzzle. Another part of the puzzle is ensuring that healthcare professionals can understand data and interpret it to benefit patients.
Data literacy is crucial for any healthcare data strategy. Healthcare professionals require a basic ability to read, work with, analyse and communicate with data. Qlik’s study revealed that data literacy has been predicted by leaders and employees surveyed in the healthcare sector alike to be the most in-demand skill by 2030.
However, the same research revealed that only 12% of employees surveyed in the healthcare sector feel fully confident in their data literacy skills. If healthcare organisations are to adequately use data, they must ensure that staff are equipped with the ability to understand and make decisions based on insights. Organisations may need to invest in education and reskilling programmes, so staff can feel comfortable using data systems, understanding insights, and using data as part of treating patients.
Consider a move to the cloud
Data warehouses have long enabled Trusts to centralise data from hundreds of different systems and sources. Having data in one central place makes reporting, analytics, and external submissions easier and more comprehensive. However, some are deciding that a move to a cloud is more beneficial than on-prem.
Cloud technology is easy to use and allows collaboration between professionals. For example, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundations Trust (WWL) transitioned their data and analytics to the cloud which has allowed them to process more data, more frequently. The organisation has been able to quickly access fresher data than before which has enabled it to reach new milestones and set a precedent for the whole industry. The Trust recently unveiled its updated healthcare data strategy which included how it plans to build on its data and analytics function and transform the Trust’s data warehouse to the cloud. The strategy also focuses on how it will tackle wider population health decisions.
The importance of technology, data and data literacy
Healthcare is a vital industry where life or death decisions are made daily. With a data-driven strategy, healthcare professionals can offer better quality and accurate care to their patients. To do this effectively, organisations should consider implementing technology to provide automation, AI, and cloud-based solutions which can help store and share data.
Organisations must also invest in data literacy education for their staff so they can work with and analyse data. Ultimately, when healthcare professionals have real-time insights and are aware of how to use them, then healthcare will become an industry where data can truly save lives.
This work was written and provided by Adam Mayer, Director at Qlik.
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