With AphA Annual Conference coming up we have partnered with the Association of Professional Healthcare Analysts to outline why ‘Getting true intelligence out of NHS Data’ is even more critical. With the post-covid elective backlog, trusts need access to accurate data so they can use scarce resources to get the waiting lists down quicker, spot clinical priorities and those at serious risk because of treatment delays.

Getting true intelligence out of NHS data

There is no doubt that the NHS is flush with data and this is already exploding exponentially with the current digital agenda and recent Covid innovations. The Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) in particular, are set to integrate data across all care settings to provide different views of data looking across populations, providers and pathways. But the critical issues here are – how accurate is that consolidated data, is it in a usable format, are we comparing like-with-like, what true intelligence can we glean from that data, and critically, are we going to risk making incorrect care decisions and resource allocations based on poor data quality and evidence?

For any organisation to function effectively in today’s integrated NHS there are two vital foundations:

  • Accurate consolidated data on which to make critical decisions
  • A way to create intelligence from that data that drives operational performance improvement

Shiny new systems don’t mean shiny new outcomes

Data is not intelligence. Clinical, patient, workforce and finance data, are invariably kept in siloed systems in disparate dataset formats. Indeed, even with different EPR systems the datasets don’t match. And, in a lot of cases, data entry accuracy varies and different information is captured to create spurious outputs. Organisations are still buying systems with little or no consideration as the how to get information out at the back end. Consolidating and validating data to produce a single, actionable version of the truth is now a vital foundation for all Trusts looking to provide safe, high quality, and collaborative care for the population they serve.

Insource provides data management solutions that deliver a single source of structured, unified data from multiple disparate systems that gives organisations unfettered access to their fully validated data on which to base key clinical, operation and strategic decisions.

Turning data into actionable intelligence

But clean, consolidated data is only the beginning. The need is to turn this data into actionable intelligence. Here the role of the analyst community becomes increasingly important. AphA (Association of Professional Healthcare Analysts) has been established to provide a greater voice to this increasingly important community within Health and Care.

Rony Arafin, CEO of AphA and Head of Analystics in NHS England and Improvement, states: “Analysts have been long overlooked and used simply as a number-crunching and reporting resource. Analysts should be classed as a scientific profession, as they continue to deliver valuable insights. And the emerging role of Chief Analytical Officer is rightly where this data and analytics leadership should sit, where it can directly influence Board level decisions.”

Automation for data accessibility and easy reporting

The design of dashboards and the use of BI tools to automate reporting and put key information into an easily digestible format for front line colleagues and senior management is a core function of the analyst community. But accurate data feeds are an essential starting point, rubbish in: rubbish out comes to mind.

Andrew Barraclough, Director of Skills Development at AphA and Assistant Director of Insight in Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust adds; “Currently a great deal of analyst time is spent on trying to pull data together for the production of reports. With accurate, automated, normalised data feeds this can be dramatically reduced leaving analysts free to delve into the data to highlight errors, spot trends, and model possible future scenarios.”

With Insource data management solutions National Returns, for example, can be substantially automated removing a huge monthly/weekly/daily burden.

During Covid we have seen a massive increase in the number of reports requested both internally and centrally, initially to manage the pandemic and now to support recovery as we look to tackle elective backlogs and clinical priorities needing urgent treatment. Because of time pressures for these reports the quality of existing data and its providence is rarely called into account. With the size of the post-Covid electives task we must start to maximise our resource usage and cannot afford to squander invaluable theatre slots or bed availability. Accurate data is now even more essential for recovery planning.

Elective care recovery can’t happen based on old data projections

The analytics function in NHS organisations can support both real-time operations and strategic planning. In both cases access to near real-time accurate, consolidated data is invaluable. Basing elective care recovery plans on 2019 activity data is rapidly running out of road. We need an accurate understanding of the true waiting list size, breaches, and clinical priorities now. We need current bed occupancy, theatre availability, clinic usage, consultant diaries, nurse rosters, and diagnostic slots, if we are to truly make the best use of what we’ve got, and share any spare resources with partner sites.

With this consolidated data to hand, analysts can make some inroads into producing accurate recovery forecasting with detailed bed planning linked with theatre availability. The Gooroo demand and capacity planning solution is available from Insource for more advanced modelling to develop agile recovery plans that can be changed as real-time activity levels are recorded. This gives the site or collaborative partnership a reactive tool with which to assign resources as circumstances change and recovery targets are achieved.

AphA is a voice for the analyst community

With the digital transformation agenda well underway and a plethora of new systems operational throughout all levels of the NHS, we are now experiencing an avalanche of data. From this there are two clear directives, the need to share this data and the need to make sense of it. It is exceptionally timely that AphA has been established to provide a voice to analytics community. Insource are delighted to be working in partnership with AphA to raise the profile of the importance of data intelligence and insight. Especially as we move towards the need to manage a mix of remote, self-help, and onsite care scenarios and ultimately deliver the Government’s preventative care agenda.