Answering new questions and delivering greater value
“When you are implementing software systems, you need to make sure that people understand and use the data, because that’s where the real benefit comes from. Key to that is data literacy.”
Stuart McCaw, Programme Manager at Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand Capital, Coast, Hutt Valley
While vast amounts of healthcare data are available, the challenge is making this data usable and actionable.
Decision makers need to understand the different levers that drive patient outcomes, the level of performance at a healthcare facility, and the impact of policies that are designed or delivered across a health program, and at all levels of care.
In a data driven organisation, questions are encouraged. It is not simply about producing reports detailing what was done in the past, but questioning why and how it could be improved for the future?
Successful organisations have a culture in which all staff – from nursing and allied health professionals on the frontline, right up to executive level – are empowered to ask questions of data.
Data literacy is the ability to read, work with, analyse and communicate with data. Data literate staff understand what questions to ask and how to get true benefit from available data. This becomes a virtuous cycle, as data driven organisations produce data literate employees, who then contribute more to their roles.
Access to the right analytics tools drives adoption of data-driven decision making and increased data literacy amongst health staff. The ability to deliver self-serve analytics also frees up resource to focus on providing greater value back to an organisation.
This was the case for Te Whatu Ora Capital, Coast, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa, where the introduction of automation and self-service analytics means many queries do not come to the analytics team anymore and the time needed to produce reports is significantly reduced, allowing them to focus on providing greater value back to their customers.
Te Whatu Ora, Capital, Coast, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa
Te Whatu Ora, Capital, Coast, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa Mental Health, Addiction and Intellectual Disability Service (MHAIDS) provides services across Wellington, Porirua, Kāpiti, the Hutt Valley and the Wairarapa, as well as some central region and national services.
Telling better stories
MHAIDS provides mental health, addiction and intellectual disability services across Capital, Coast, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa districts.
There is a large range of information coming into the combined service – including addiction, forensic, and intellectual disability data – which is being recorded in multiple systems across multiple locations.
Data flows from source systems into a data warehouse, with the visualisation and analytics tool over the top, enabling MHAIDS to have one application that sources information from many disparate systems, creating a single source of data.
The MHAIDS dashboard went live in early 2022, pulling together a range of measures spanning quality, reportable event and client data that are of interest to the service.
Hope McCrohon, MHAIDS Senior Analyst, says the tool allows her team to “tell better stories”.
“We have the ability to look at multiple measures on one screen, which is especially important in mental health as you need to see at least three measures to get a good idea of what you are looking at,” she says.
“We also have HR and finance measures from across MHAIDS to back up our client data and it is all in one place, which is really nice place to be.”
Steve McGinnity, Analyst in the MHAIDS Business Systems Team, says users can also filter information by things like ethnicity or team.
“We can see what impact any given project is having on a service by just looking at the data,” he explains.
“We are seeing a significant uptake of the dashboard being used in clinical governance meetings, as it allows them to see trends over time.”
Users’ ability to see what happens to the information they input and have access to it has had a huge impact on data quality.
“These tools have really helped to improve people’s understanding of what we do with the data and how the information that they contribute influences a whole range of measures,” McCrohon says.
Hope McCrohon, MHAIDS
Team leaders have always been interested in how they can use data to make improvements and address certain issues, but information siloes made it difficult to work with.
“Having everything in one place means the users can go and interact with the data and because the interface is very user friendly, people are able to find information easily, which gains and maintains their interest,” McCrohon says.
The analytics solution also enables questions to be raised and answered in real time.
McCrohon points to a local project on improving the district’s access and intake processes. At a progress meeting, analysts were able to answer questions on workflow and call numbers immediately.
“Historically, this would have involved someone writing down a request, sending it to my team, formulating the data, and sending it back. It could have been the next meeting or the following meeting that they would have got the answers to the questions,” she says.
“That ability to answer questions in real time is one of the key benefits at the service level as it frees up our capacity for other work.” A shift away from manual reporting has allowed the data analytics team to focus on quality improvement.
“This could mean focusing on improved data quality, or digging into the data and understanding the story,” McCrohon says.
After working in the district for 13 years, she says the data analytics space today “feels like a different world”.
“Previously there was a disconnect between the information reports we were sending out and people’s experience on the ground. Now teams have confidence in the data, reports are automated, and people are taking ownership of their information,” she says.
“We have consistent measures and consistent understanding of what those measures mean.” McGinnity agrees saying, “with automation and self-service analytics there are a lot of queries that do not come to us anymore and the amount of manual work to produce reports is significantly reduced.
“It provides greater efficiency and allows me to focus on providing greater value back to our customers.”
Stuart McCaw, Programme
Improving data literacy
Stuart McCaw’s focus is on getting benefit out of the analytics investment.
“When you are implementing software systems, you need to make sure that people understand and use the data, because that’s where the real benefit comes from. Key to that is data literacy,” he says.
McCaw adopted and adapted a competency-based data literacy programme developed in Australia (Databilities ™ model from Data to the People) and the first tranche of training was in MHAIDS.
He assesses which of a range of competencies a staff member needs to have and at what level.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, McCaw was training staff in-person in groups. During lockdowns, he started virtual training one-on-one and found this hugely beneficial in terms of attendance and being able to train staff using their own data.
“It’s important that we train and work on the information that people have to use in their working lives,” says McCaw.
“I’m teaching them to understand trends over time: to identify a potential problem on a graph and then comment on what processes they are putting in place to address it.”
A survey of MHAIDS trainees shows an average 70 percent increase in confidence in using analytics and their understanding of their data, which has led to increased use of the analytics tools.
The highest interest in training sessions is from team leaders who are keen to understand information around staffing needs, such as Full Time Equivalent calculations and vacancies.
“The data that supports the recruitment process is really important to them, so getting the data right is really important to them and we have an application that exposes them to what our payroll system shows about their staffing,” he says.
Training highlighted a need to improve the service’s management of position data, which led to McCaw co-designing and piloting a new process and information flow, with early indications that it is having a positive impact.
“This was a data quality improvement process, but it is also fundamentally helping to manage our understanding of our staff mix within our teams, ensuring that is accurate and therefore vacancies are accurately reflected,” he says.
“This has a significant impact on recruiting and speeding up that process.”
“It really reduces the noise in the system and allows staff to focus on what’s important and answer their questions quickly,” McCaw says.