For healthcare organizations, having quality data has always been important. In the last 20 months, however, it has taken on an even bigger role, as leaders have come to rely on accurate, up-to-date information to determine the availability of beds, equipment, and testing/vaccination supplies.
“We need to make sure we have the best data available to make decisions,” said Jackie Rice, CIO at Frederick Health, during a recent panel discussion. “It becomes more and more important every day for our survival. What do we need going forward? That data is going to drive that.”
For many organizations, data is being leveraged in the form of dashboards and registries to help track and report the number of Covid cases, and maintain a steady supply of materials — both of which are critical, particularly in a rapidly-changing environment. “We’re getting resources depending on the data, so we need to make sure it’s of good quality,” said Rice, whose team relied heavily on these tools when creating an incident command center in the early days of the pandemic.
For Southern Ohio Medical Center, which went live with Meditech Expanse during the summer of 2020, the ability to create a custom dashboard proved pivotal. “It helped us determine what we had in stock and what we needed,” said Valerie DeCamp, VP of Clinical Integration and Chief Quality Officer. For her team, not having to rely on hand counts was a game-changer. “We used predictive analytics to look out 7 or 14 days to help see how things were trending and plan for surges.”
However, as she pointed out, the need to access quality data at the point-of-care goes beyond Covid. At both Frederick Health and SOMC, dashboards and registries have been developed that focus on population health, prescribing trends, social determinants and more. The common denominator, of course, is data. During the webinar, Rice and DeCamp spoke with Christine Parent, AVP, Meditech, about how they’re leveraging data to improve quality, and shared best practices for implementing quality initiatives.
One of the most difficult steps in the process is often deciding where to start; for SOMC, that wasn’t the case. According to DeCamp, the Southern Ohio region had developed an unfortunate reputation as having some of the top opioid prescribers in the country. And so the organization has worked with Meditech to develop toolkits for the acute and ambulatory settings to reduce unnecessary prescribing of prescription pain medications. “It was of great importance to us to implement the toolkits,” she said.
At Frederick, Rice’s team has created a registry to track the 300-plus chronic care patients who are part of its remote monitoring program. Through devices that record weight, blood pressure, and other measurements, “We’re able to monitor those patients and raise to the top those who might be at a higher risk,” she noted.
Another tool that can potentially improve outcomes is a dashboard that combines data from Meditech and Arcadia to identify candidates for hospice care, according to Rice. Through this collaboration, “We’ve been able to develop an algorithm using claims data and EHR data to determine the likelihood of mortality in the next six months,” she said. That way, caregivers can speak to patients and their families about hospice care, which can improve the quality of their end-of-life care.
Keys to success
All three panelists agreed that gathering data is the easy part. What’s not so easy is the work that goes on behind the scenes, noted DeCamp. “That’s where you really make improvements.” Of course, there are several steps that need to happen before that can become a reality.
Below are some of the best practices the speakers offered for organizations that are thinking about – or have already begun – their quality improvement journeys.
- Validation is key. “You have to have accurate data to make improvements, and you have to be able to validate it,” said DeCamp. Parent concurred, adding that to enable better decision-making, “there has to be trust in the data. That’s something we’ve built into the platform and into our implementation process.”
- Think system. Parent’s experience has taught her that for quality initiatives to be successful, “it needs to be a system-wide effort, and it has to be owned by each department.” That means communicating early and often, which helps create a culture around quality.
- Go with the flow. It is critical, noted Rice, to ensure any tasks fit into existing workflows, which can get dicey since multiple departments are usually involved. “Keep in mind that these are people putting in this data,” she said. “We need to be cognizant that yes, we want all the data, but we need to be careful what we’re asking people to enter.”
- Beyond measuring. Another critical component, she said, is it’s not just about measuring outcomes. “You need to make sure you’re following up on those measurements and presenting to the executive team, what are the outcomes? What are the barriers? What is needed to help move those barriers? Usually something has to change in order to see improvements.”
- Get the right people involved. When it comes to any complex project, it is essential to have “a passionate, energized team that’s willing to step up,” said DeCamp.
It’s also important to make sure those people are in the right seats, having the right discussions, which is where the data governance piece comes into play. “We want to make sure the data is accurate so people will have confidence it in,” said Rice. At Frederick, which has an executive steering committee that oversees data governance, the goal is to “involve all of the people who work with data.”
To that end, a group was assembled with representatives across the organization who meet at lunch-and-learn sessions to collaborate. At these meetings, “we show them the tools and talk about where the data comes from so that they understand that when they make requests.” It also helps them to see “who is gathering and utilizing the data,” and how they can “work with the data governance office to make sure we have the best data available to make decisions.”
DeCamp agreed, adding that having groups like a physician advisory committee (which is in place at SOMC) can help increase awareness and understanding of how data is being utilized, and provide insights on how that can be done even more effectively.
The most important step, however, is to get started, according to Parent. “Have an area you want to focus on, establish your measurements, and build a team,” she said. “We’ve found that if you start here, you’ll begin to get some momentum, and that’s when you’re really able to move forward and show how it is impacting your community.”
It’s no small task, but with the right people, processes, and tools in place, it’s possible, said DeCamp. “Healthcare is challenging and we face barriers all the time. Realize that there will be some issues along the way, and be prepared to never give up.”
To view the archive of this webinar — Harnessing Data to Advance Quality of Care (Sponsored by Meditech) — please click here.