Health + Tech | Dashboards can improve healthcare outcomes
Healthcare is becoming more and more focused on data analysis to assist with, among other things, patient care. Apart from cost saving and efficiency gains, continuity of care and prevention initiatives have been cited as important reasons for healthcare digitisation. Digitisation fulfils the need for precise and timely data from which proper and accurate analysis can be done to aid decision-making.
To support the ease of data analysis, most, if not all, holistic healthcare software provide for the use of dashboards; from those that have to do with the core healthcare functions of the organisation to those that have to do with business processes such as accounting and inventory.
A dashboard allows for a visual display of functions and services providing comparative analysis of certain variables determined largely by the user once available within the software.
For example, a dashboard can allow the physician to examine the patient’s blood pressure results over a few months to better understand triggers and formulate a response to these. There could also be a dashboard that looks at the use of certain types of medication over a few years to see what periods are most likely to require increased amounts. This could also give clues as to the beginnings of disease outbreaks and make year-on-year comparisons.
Dashboards provide the information needed to make critical and accurate decisions quickly. Many times in a healthcare environment, there are disparate data sources. Digitisation solves this problem by allowing access to various types of data in one place – permission settings are in place to control which personnel sees what specific data, depending on their job function.
Data sources in a healthcare environment include Electronic Medical Records (EMR), pharmacy, accounting, inventory, laboratory, radiology, admission, length of stay and much more, including administrative information.
I will point out here that data analysis does not necessarily depend on personal data. For example, while the doctor will be privy to specific patient data contained in the EMR, other non-medical persons would only be able to view non-personal data such as number of patients, gender and average waiting time, and so on. This, however, will provide the hospital with much-needed information that can be used to improve practices, functions and offerings as well as customer service.
Dashboards are very flexible and can allow for the setting of variables that would be more difficult to capture in a paper-based setting or even through comparing various reports. For example, if a hospital is having a higher than usual mortality rate for heart surgery patients, variables to consider could be the rate of turnover of staff in this area, the availability of tools and medication and the extent of continuing education in the area. Capturing human resource-related variables together with medical outcomes are made much more possible through digitisation, and analysis is made easier and clearer via representation with a dashboard.
Other benefits of using a healthcare dashboard as part of analytics include:
- The ability to represent data graphically in an easily understood format.
- Easy access to the overall position of the facility in various areas and even by department if required.
- Comparative analysis of performance in various areas over time is possible.
- Ability to quickly identify problems and find possible solutions.
- The ability to quickly zero in on specific information required for specific tasks.
While I have been focused on how the hospital or medical facility can use dashboards, I want to point out that there are also benefits to the patient and their personalised care. As healthcare becomes more and more about getting increased patient involvement, the technology industry has responded.
Dashboards specifically designed for the patient and accessible through a patient portal can allow them to be actively involved in their care. Along with their doctor, they can track treatment progress, get immediate feedback and progress reports to focus on prevention. Remote care and monitoring tools largely use dashboards to simplify results for patients.
As we have seen, prevention is one of the core principals of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, especially where non-communicable diseases are concerned, and so already you can see how as a nation we can gain immense benefits from what healthcare digitisation offers.