How can healthcare organisations use their data to improve patient care?

by Richard Onslow

06 Jun 2023

In June last year, the Department for Health and Social Care published the final version of their data strategy to reshape health and social care with data. A key aim throughout the strategy is using and sharing data to improve patient care.

Using data to deliver practical insights is nothing new; healthcare organisations will already have data ambitions at varying stages of maturity. However, there is an abundance of data within each healthcare setting that can be analysed in a thousand different ways. How can healthcare organisations get the most value out of that data, with a focus on improving patient care?


1. Start with the outcomes to get the most value out of patient data

I was recently talking about this topic with Robbert Willemse, Client Services Director at our partner Agilisys. He argued that data teams and IT departments should not be creating data strategies in silos. Instead, business objectives and required outcomes should shape overall data objectives. This gives the data strategy a clear purpose and direction and ensures everyone is working to meet the same goals.

He said:

Data. Insight. Decision. Action. Outcome. The companies that derive the most value out of their data flip this traditional linear strategy on its head. By starting with the outcomes that they want to achieve, they can logically work backward to understand what is needed at each stage. This creates a data strategy with a specialised focus, designed entirely to meet their goals.”

“With decision intelligence, the provider can map out the actions and decisions they need to make. This uncovers the insights – and ultimately the data – that they need to make those decisions. Decision intelligence clearly articulates the levers and influences that impact the outcome being achieved.

“Lets put this into practice. Take the example of a healthcare provider who wants to improve their theatre slot management. They need several types of information to manage this in the most efficient way. Information such as optimal staffing levels, time needed to clean the theatre after an operation, and the likelihood of operations overrunning (based on, for instance, historical data of the surgeon, patient specific markers, and publicly available data for the procedure).”

Regardless of the outcomes organisations are aiming for, this logical process always leads to an outcome focused data strategy. This becomes the first critical step when it comes to implementation. The very core of the data strategy, is, of course, the data itself. For the wider business to trust the data and use it to drive outcomes, they must be confident in its quality, accuracy, and transparency. And if they want to use the data insights to inform crucial clinical decisions in a patient centric approach, they need to be sure it contains all the relevant information for each patient. Whenever and wherever they need to use it.


2. Get the data right – and ready

Getting patient data ready to use starts with focusing on data quality and ensuring it is accurate. Inaccuracies can creep into any patient management system, due to data entry errors, duplications in records, unknown changes in patient circumstances (e.g., address change), or instances where aliases are used. Fixing errors and removing duplications are important for ensuring accuracy in patient records. But for a truly patient centric approach, healthcare providers need to link and standardise patient data across all systems and departments.

Healthcare providers are increasingly using digital systems to record and store patient information. This makes it easier to link records and improve interoperability. However, innovation tends to happen organically, as it is often driven by requirements that emerge and change over time. As I mentioned earlier, business objectives should drive the data strategy, which has accurate and complete data at its core. When this does not happen, the result can be technology implemented in isolation, data held in silos, and departments working independently without a complete understanding of the patient and their needs.


3. Work with an integrated patient view

Addressing the importance of integrated patient care is a major ambition of the CQC. They have stressed the need to “break down the organisational silos that hold data” and create “platforms that can talk to each other and work together”. An integrated view ensures one patient exists across an organisation, with all their records and data available on demand to all departments who need them. This is vital for the success of integrated care services, and to reduce the risk to patients and their data.

The need to share data and break data silos is not only a CQC ambition. It is increasingly recognised as an emerging point of focus across the health sector. NHS England and Improvement are looking to improve data sharing within and between care settings to close the “historic treatment gap in mental health provision”. And we are already working with some forward-thinking healthcare organisations with an outcome-driven approach who have created an accurate and sharable patient view.


Customer success stories

Private Healthcare Provider This provider is always striving to provide excellent patient care with a focus on protecting patient safety. As part of this ambition, they wanted to remove the clinical and administrative risks associated with duplicate and incomplete patient records. We worked with them to help them manage their patient data more effectively and efficiently across systems to provide hospital administration and the central business functions with accurate, complete, and up-to-date patient information. They used our technology platform ClearCore to link the information for every patient across their CRM, Patient Admin System (PAS) and Electronic Patient Record (EPR) systems.  They were able to validate new patient records and search all systems for existing patient records before new ones could be created. Trusting that their data was accurate, and having the ability to link and search all systems before creating new records, was crucial to removing risks and safeguarding patients.

Southern Health and Social Care Trust migrated their AHP records from Clinical Manager to PARIS and wanted to ensure the new system could share accurate information with existing systems. They recognised that the data needed to be of the highest quality before it was migrated, with a system in place to automatically maintain exceptional data quality. They used our ClearCore technology platform to identify and fix inaccuracies and missing data prior to the migration. Once high data quality was assured, ClearCore created a single patient view that linked data from across their key systems and provided consistent and up to date information no matter which system accessed the record.


Accurate and shareable patient data is the bedrock of healthcare ambitions

Having accurate patient data that can be linked across departments and organisations provides the crucial data foundation required for achieving a wide range of business objectives.

Support patient access requests: The ability to link and view all records relating to an individual makes responding to patient access requests a quick and easy task.

Anonymised research: The accuracy and reliability of anonymised research is much improved when separate records are recognised as relating to a single individual.

Compliance: More specifically to our ClearCore platform, our detailed, built-in audit trails provides superior transparency as standard. This can help to demonstrate compliance with the Care Quality Commission and their focus on auditability and accountability in the safe and appropriate use of data in the NHS.

But perhaps one of the biggest objectives that accurate, shareable data enables is successful multi-agency collaboration and integrated care systems. Proving that data is accurate and complete is the first hurdle in it being approved to be shared.

For a true patient-centred approach, it is crucial that systems and organisations work collaboratively.  Providing up-to-date and trusted information enables medical decisions that positively impact patient outcomes and I believe we will see an increasing number of healthcare organisations focusing on creating an accurate data foundation as we move into the next generation of integrated care.