The current healthcare winter crisis results from a mismatch between healthcare capacity and demand. It is far too late to fix either the demand or capacity mismatch this winter and it is impossible to “throw money at the problem” to increase capacity at short notice. This will require sustained and targeted investment in staffing and inpatient bed capacity over several years. If we do invest how can we be sure that we are getting value for money and that the investment will result in better conditions for our patients and the staff who care for them?
Investment in healthcare will only result in improved outcomes if we can be certain that we can track how we are spending the money and then measure outcomes from the investment. In other words, the only way to solve the demand vs capacity crisis is to have access to accurate and actionable data so that we can continue to allocate resources to where they will deliver the best results.
Data is often described as the new oil. This is mainly due to its value but its value is derived from what it achieves. It powers organizations’ decision-making and lubricates the system’s cogs to work more seamlessly together. It helps deliver a macro view of what is going on and it also helps provide a micro view of going on. In our experiences with hospitals, there is a real challenge in extracting data. The limiting factors are the age of the existing technology, the diversity of the technology stack, and the general complexity of data related to healthcare.
The HSE publishes forecasts for the winter view and even the pessimistic view of the modeling wasn’t severe enough. This data is the macro view and is incredibly important for helping the planning coming up to the winter season. Where more data is needed at the micro level. Connected data within organizations and between teams to help make the existing processes more efficient. For instance, bed management such a crucial role in the hospital but this isn’t necessarily always managed in a digital way. If it is not managed digitally, there is a loss of data which makes the cogs of the machine a little less slick. The direct impact is a slowing of admissions as a bed may sit idle for longer than it needs to. We saw a great presentation at the https://www.futurehealthsummit.com/ on this very topic from https://patientanalytics.io/
The use of paper-based systems also poses problems. Chart information, when written down, sits in a silo. By liberating the data in these charts, hospitals can understand different care pathways at scale and share them within their own hospital and beyond.
Investment in data and systems that can help liberate data is an important part of trying to free up capacity for dealing with winter illnesses. It obviously can’t affect the current crisis but as the Chinese proverb goes “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”
I am taking more time for reflection and writing up posts related to MedoSync’s areas of expertise: medical billing, healthcare, technology, and being a start-up in that ecosystem.