As in every sector, healthcare is generating and handling more and more information every day. In order to make sense of this data, keep it secure, and make it accessible to all relevant parties, a new approach is required to how it’s managed. But many bodies within the healthcare sector are falling behind, and finding their day-to-day use of data increasingly chaotic.
Many hospitals, for example, suffer from ‘dark data’: information collected and stored through normal operations, but which aren’t used for other purposes and are only kept for compliance. This normally takes the form of huge silos of paper-based documentation, that costs both time and money to retrieve, analyse and store. Some trusts don’t even know what data they’re keeping hold of, or whether they need to keep it or dispose of it.
This is why analysing and digitising this data, so that it can be more easily managed, is so important.
What effect is this having?
Frontline NHS staff are under pressure to make the most of all the time available, and losing working hours searching for information across different systems is a major hindrance to this.
This can also make a significant difference in the context of the wider pressures that the NHS is currently facing. According to the BMA, there are currently around three million patients in the UK waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment. Being able to use health data faster and more effectively can help address these challenges by easing treatment pathways, as well as smoothing out peaks in demand such as in the winter.
This problem needs to be addressed sooner rather than later, because it’s getting bigger with every day that passes by, leaving the NHS vulnerable to unnecessary expense and breaches of GDPR. It will be a time-consuming process to analyse and digitise this data (or destroy it in accordance with retention policies), but it has to be done – and in a way that doesn’t disrupt normal operations.
The advantage of streamlined operations
Progress in digitising the NHS has been slow, despite it being a key part of the NHS Long Term Plan. While there is £8billion of investment planned over five years, the disparity of different IT systems in different parts of the health service is holding digitisation back. As a result, hospitals and other health providers are still finding it slow and cumbersome to share information. And while many hospitals have made some progress in digitising their live patient records, barely any have addressed their ‘dark data’ at the same time.
However, there are many ways that hospitals and trusts can benefit from streamlining IT and putting routine data to better use. These include:
Improving care: better integration of data across inpatient and outpatient care avoids fragmentation and supports more coordinated delivery. This is especially important when incidents arise, such as side-effects, new symptoms or bad reactions to medication
Driving service improvement: reducing paperwork and improving coordination can also support faster, more efficient referrals between departments. It can also ensure that every relevant caregiver can gain full visibility into real-time patient data
Enabling research and innovation: with easier access to more data, including for clinical trials and research organisations, the time it takes to conduct important medical innovation can be reduced, without compromising reporting or compliance
Improving business efficiency through more streamlined processes
Scanning and digitising all files, and creating metadata for them, means users can easily access and retrieve the information they need. However, hospitals and trusts have huge volumes of files that will need to be processed, including in administrative areas like HR, finance and payroll.
Many trusts are put off from tackling this problem because of the huge expense of addressing it as a one-off project. However, a more gradual approach can address the issue efficiently, focusing on these three areas:
Information management: capturing and understanding content, streamlining it to promote collaboration, and managing its lifecycle from creation to disposal
Productivity and automation: putting in place a solid content and process strategy, in order to support better decision-making, and more efficient processes which can be supported by automation
Compliance and control: ensuring that content is stored securely, and that it can be easily discovered and disposed of as soon as it is no longer required for any reason
This is where the help of an expert third-party provider like SCC comes in: helping to advise on the best way forward, assessing the data situation within an individual trust, and recommending the right procedures and solutions to implement for long-term success.
Take a closer look at how we can help your organisation or trust here.
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