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How a single unified view of data can unlock your healthcare organisation's potential – and save money without compromising on care

(Image credit: Image Credit: Lightpoet / Shutterstock)

Kevin Strachan, Operations Director at Connexica, looks at how a comprehensive single view of data can impact a healthcare organisation’s potential, helping hospitals keep on top of patient care and prevent problems before they escalate and create further costs in a time when funding is limited.

Thanks to an increase in both the methods for collecting data and the checkpoints in which data is inputted, the healthcare industry is experiencing a data boom. The problem is that while vast amounts of data present our healthcare organisations with significant opportunities, it also presents them with significant challenges. The majority of healthcare organisations in the country – from NHS hospitals to private clinics – are sitting on hordes of valuable data with no clear plan on how best to manage it, and with very little idea of just what it could enable them to deliver. Although most know that successfully utilising data can help them to unlock their potential and deliver better care, they’re unsure of exactly what that looks like in practice.

In my opinion, if there is one element of data management that healthcare organisations need to prioritise, it’s ensuring a comprehensive single unified view of their data. This is the key to not only providing better patient care in the first instance, but to unlock huge potential in the way we deliver healthcare services in the UK – as well as helping to spend more efficiently.

Unlocking the potential for improved patient care

The most forthcoming benefit delivered by a single unified view is, of course, the immediate benefit to a patient. A single unified view of data means that healthcare professionals have access to the right data, in the right format, at the right time, in any place. The impact this simple detail can have on patient care is considerable. If every decision-maker involved in a patient journey has access to accurate, up-to-date data in real-time, treatment decisions can be made faster and with less room for error. From the GP making a referral, to the specialist administering treatment, to the community nurse providing after care, every decision is informed, and then recorded to help inform the next decision. For patients, this means consistent and coherent treatment, trust in the decisions made about their health, and the ability to have their treatment history reviewed to analyse if something could be done better and what should be done next. In short, a single unified view can help a healthcare organisation provide the best possible care.

This, of course, also has an impact on costs – everything from providing more efficient care and avoiding unnecessary treatments or appointments, to preventing issues that could lead to costly litigation proceedings for negligence.

Saving time and money to help organisations invest in the important things

Cost saving, more generally, is another significant benefit that a single unified view delivers. The areas where this logic can be applied are almost endless. For example, savings can be made in staff time. Healthcare organisations rely on data for decision-making, but without a consolidated view and democratic access to data, clinicians often have to rely on requesting reports from Information teams. Many organisations still have legacy systems for reporting which don’t have the data stored all in one place, which means they can spend hours – or even days – creating reports to send to clinicians. A data management system which consolidates data and provides a single unified view allows clinicians to access data in real-time, as discussed, freeing up the time for information teams to spend their time doing more productive tasks like data analysis.

Procurement, too, is another area where a unified view can help make measurable savings. With the right data, an organisation can get a view on everything that relates to procurement – from where products have been used with patients, to delivery times or the cost of different suppliers. Having access to all this information in one place, and having the ability to cross-reference it with patient care data, allows you to see the bigger picture. Imagine looking at the data for an artificial hip joint. You can analyse all data to see whether your organisation is getting the best value for money, answering questions such as; how much did we spend on the product? How many times was it used with a patient? How many of these patients came back with problems? How much did that cost us? Is there a cheaper, more reliable alternative? The savings that this kind of view could facilitate have the potential to be massive, and the applications are potentially endless. Ultimately, all the money saved can be put back into patient care.

Opening up even more possibilities for improving care

So a single unified view can demonstrably empower a healthcare organisation to provide the best care they can through creating efficiencies and improving decision making. These things are key to help an organisation to function at its highest potential, but what about going further? To me, one of the most exciting things is how a single unified view can help improve how we deliver healthcare in the wider community. Consider, for example, how sharing data with other partners and organisations could help improve the delivery of care in their wider region. We’ve been working with the Midlands Partnership Trust on their data management, and they are particularly interested in how they can share data in the future to improve care in their region. The ‘discharge-to-assess’ (D2A), or Home First programme, is a key example of where this could really have a huge impact – standardised data shared with GP practices, primary care, local authorities, social services, the local STP, and more, mean that we could begin to provide holistic care and give the patient a sense of a more joined-up experience, whether they are being treated in a hospital bed, or at home. For any healthcare organisation, the ability to work with the right partners to provide the best care possible, all while freeing up hospital recourses, is surely the ultimate goal.

The capabilities that properly managed data enables is tremendous, but at the heart of it is the idea that the data is standardised and available for all who need it, when they need it, so that everyone is working based on one single version of truth. In an industry where accuracy and responsibility are paramount, data is a powerful and undeniable tool for any healthcare organisation in delivering the best possible care for patients.

Kevin Strachan, Operations Director, Connexica
Image Credit: Lightpoet / Shutterstock