The value of data has risen in recent years as healthcare providers across the world have recognised the role data can play in combating medical problems at scale – whilst also transforming the outcomes for individual patients. A report by the NHS and Future Care Capital states that there is ‘growing interest in the data about the 55 million patients for whom the NHS cares. These “cradle to grave” datasets are expected to play a key role in the discovery of new treatments and technological solutions to the growing demands placed upon our healthcare system.’
Exploring data value
Local health and care partnerships are being actively encouraged to use data to design new models of proactive care and deliver improvements in health and wellbeing that make the best use of an array of resources. With the challenges of understanding, prioritising and delivering care in a post-COVID health service, there are many areas where better use of data can make a real difference.
1. Reducing Health Inequalities. The delivery of high quality care across clinicians and GP practices is critical to reduce health inequalities and ensure consistent standards of care across the country. For CCGs and ICSs effectively monitoring population health using data can reveal trends in prescribing and clinician interventions that can rapidly highlight variations. This insight can be used proactively to encourage the adoption of standards and guidelines and compliance with local pathways and policies across GP practices and other care providers.
2. Improving understanding. Anonymised longitudinal health data is continuously providing new insights into the causes of different diseases, as well as comorbidities and possible side effects of treatment. Better understanding of the causes and progression of diseases can help with the creation of new treatment plans, advice on lifestyle changes, initiation or changes to medication, to improve patient outcomes.
3. Prioritising care. From the acknowledged drop in patient interaction with clinicians during 2020 to the postponed operations and outpatient appointments, the NHS faces a huge backlog during 2021. Resources will remain stretched and there are many gaps in service delivery that will need to be addressed. From vaccinations and cervical smears to overdue checking of prescriptions, GP practices in particular will have to take some tough decisions regarding prioritising care and services.
4. Patient safety. From compliance teams to front line clinicians, improved access to and management of diverse data sources can also address concerns regarding patient safety. Since 2012, the NHS has evaluated a number of Never Events - patient safety incidents that are considered preventable - to understand both the contributory factors and changes required to prevent such events from occurring again. Multiple issues can lead to these events, which can range from hospital acquired infections (HAIs) to incorrect diagnosis and incorrect treatment or medication, including miscommunication between different specialities and disconnected patient information.
Capturing and analysing data through the use of machine learning and predictive analysis, for example, can help the entire health economy to better understand harm and improve patient safety.
5. Intelligent self-management. One of the changes induced by the COVID-19 pandemic is a growing patient commitment to take control and ownership of their own health conditions. The rise in apps and digital channels that enable patients to self-care is a key step in this process but how are clinicians within both primary and secondary care going to ensure they effectively manage these patients? The future management and support of those with long term conditions will require more data and better collaboration, combining the patient data provided through self-care with the use of database triggers to identify those at most risk to support priority intervention.
Unlocking health data
With so much high quality data available, there are many opportunities to improve patient outcomes using the data that is collected every day throughout the NHS. The challenge is to unlock the value in that data in a way that is both easy to understand and, critically, easy to use within day to day clinical activity. Through our population level solution that simplifies the collection and analysis of data from GP practices, provides an intuitive cloud based dashboard and supports population-wide healthcare improvements, we understand how to turn healthcare data into insight that transforms patient outcomes.
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