Healthcare data analytics in a post-pandemic world

Healthcare data analytics in a post-pandemic world
© iStock/gorodenkoff

Adam Mayer, Director at Qlik, outlines how we can utilise healthcare data analytics in a post-pandemic world and alleviate the ongoing burden on health systems.

As Rishi Sunak settles into his role as Prime Minister, he faces a myriad of challenges. Not least, around 6.7 million people are waiting for routine hospital treatment according to NHS data, as well as record waits for ambulances, and thousands of patients waiting more than 12 hours to be admitted to A & E. These backlogs are a legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic. Issues include staffing shortages, pay strikes and an exodus of doctors – all immediate healthcare challenges the new government will need to address. But as well as tackling pressing resource needs, they must also invest in more long-term operational solutions to reduce waiting times going forward, if they want to “level” up a successful future for the NHS.

There is massive potential for healthcare data and analytics to transform the industry. But how does this policy prioritise data in healthcare and how are NHS trusts implementing analytics in their everyday operations? Let’s explore.

Using healthcare data to create strategies

The Department of Health and Social Care’s new health in data strategy sets out ambitious reforms for the sector. These include transforming how healthcare data is used to drive breakthroughs and efficiencies, plans to increase data sharing within healthcare and introducing new technologies to automate processes.

Policymakers say the strategy is set to save staff valuable hours and improve patient outcomes. For this to be effective, it’s crucial the government ensure NHS staff are equipped with the right skills to read, work with, and fully understand data.

The timing of this is essential. According to new research, employees working in healthcare report their use of data and its importance in decision-making has more than doubled over the past year.

This will require direct attention from both the government and NHS Trusts to successfully empower staff to be comfortable using data, to not only help deliver the highest quality care in hospitals today, but also long into the future. This won’t be easy – and many Trusts aren’t yet ready to take advantage of analytics and the cloud at the stage they’re at. Luckily, there are Trusts who are paving the way – both by bringing data into their everyday decision-making, and by developing their own landmark data strategies to help define the healthcare of the future.

Shining lights in data-informed healthcare

Leading industry innovators are identifying new ways to put healthcare data at the heart of the decision-making process in hospitals. At the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust (UHMBT)’s Royal Lancaster Infirmary site, the team developed a cutting-edge Analytical Command Centre in its emergency department. Through a number of interactive screens which present real-time analysis of capacity and demand, including the number of ambulances on the way to the hospital and availability of beds, it allows the team to continuously assess resources against demand. This is particularly useful for predicting when surges may occur, which subsequently helps the team optimise the patient experience. The results speak for themselves, as the emergency department has reduced delays and increased the percentage of patients triaged within 15 minutes from 65% to 95%.

Additionally, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has just released a bespoke data strategy, based on the government’s data policy, to build on its data and analytics function and take it to the next level.

Like the Data Saves Lives strategy, WWL’s data strategy aims to improve data sharing and integrated care systems for the benefit of patient outcomes, support local and national decision-makers with data through bespoke reporting and tools that cross-reference health and inequality data, and drive innovation in treatment and research.

For example, by transitioning its data and analytics to the cloud to process more data, WWL hopes to refresh data quicker and more frequently and increase data sharing with its people and partners.

WWL is continuing to innovate on how it scales data analytics in its processes. Currently planning their first Artificial Intelligence use-case, implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to improve healthcare data quality and data sharing. WWL do all this with an open and transparent approach so that other Trusts can learn from and replicate its experiences too.

The Future of Healthcare: supporting patients and staff with technology

The Prime Minister and his new government should rightly be focusing on addressing the NHS backlogs as a national priority – but planning for the future of the NHS must also sit high on the agenda. Key to this will be investing in healthcare data analytics technology and skills training to support NHS staff to manage resource and demand, to help get waiting times to a more sustainable and efficient level.

We know that data and analytics are already empowering health and care organisations worldwide to optimise their services, deliver better patient experiences, and offer preventative and more personalised care.

Having the right data strategies that can support healthcare priorities for the future willanaly also further improve the recording, use, sharing and importantly safeguarding of that data. Organisations setting a precedent will be able to help lead NHS Trusts across the UK in using data and analytics more widely – empowering staff to use data comfortably, not only to deliver the highest quality care in today’s hospitals, but also as we look ahead to the future.

Adam Mayer
Director at Qlik

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