Andy Dean -

Majority of NHS trusts used analytics to track patient infection status during Covid-19 pandemic

Qlik research shows 84% of NHS trusts used data analytics to support patient care during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, and suggests they could use that expertise to improve public health in the round

Beyond the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, the NHS can build on expertise developed during the crisis to use data analytics to improve health.

This is according to a report – Using data and analytics to underpin better healthcare – from data visualisation and management supplier Qlik.

The report revolves around analysis of Freedom of Information (FOI) responses and interviews with NHS trusts.

Qlik has confirmed it conducted research, in February of this year, into the use of data analytics within NHS trusts through a series of FOI requests.

A total of 141 NHS trusts were approached, the company said, of which 92 replied. Qlik also conducted a second FOI wave, from May to June 2020, of 141 trusts, of which 59 responded, which related to their use of data during the Covid-19 crisis.

According to the research, 84% of NHS trusts are using data analytics to support patient care and operations during the crisis.

More than half (55%) of them have applied analytics to track positive infections of patients during the pandemic, while 22% have used analytics to identify potential staff exposure to the virus and to inform testing.

Rob O’Neill, head of information at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT), said in a statement accompanying the report: “Real-time analytics really matters – especially in a fast-moving environment like the emergency department. Giving our frontline care workers instant access to key information, such as the status of ambulances, surges in demand, which patients are due for discharge, as well as the current bed state across the trust, is critical for empowering them to make informed decisions relating to the patient experience and care. This research proves the value of data in supporting and improving our NHS.”

Population health, patient care and management of resources emerged from the research as areas where analytics could be beneficial in the longer run.

The report makes the case for changing health funding from being based on the numbers of patients treated in hospitals to a wider, more community-wide approach.

At present, according to the research, 60% of NHS trusts are incapable of identifying population health patterns.

In relation to patient care, the report argues for more frontline healthcare workers having access to analytics software.

Good news in the report is that 82% of trusts are using analytics to monitor operational matters, such as emergency department demand. This enables them to prepare and react to spikes. The report put forward, as an example, UHMBT, which was reportedly able to improve the number of patients triaged within 15 minutes from 65% to 95% by using analytics.

The report cited Mark Singleton, associate director of information management and technology at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust: “As we continue to invest in and explore new ways that we can use our data, we are finding new ways to improve both our operations and – most importantly – patient care. For example, we’ve reduced waits for MRIs from 10 days down to two through our analysis.

“However, for its full benefits to be achieved, we need to make analytics readily available for employees on-the-go, so that they can build it into their existing workflows and decision-making process.”

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