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Health+Tech | Using data to improve efficiency in nursing

Doug Halsall, Chairman and CEO, Advanced Integrated Systems

With the adoption of electronic medical records and full integration of technology in healthcare, related disciplines like health informatics grew in significance because of the role it could play in driving more modernised, focused and comprehensive care.

We are living in a data-centric world, where data is used to fashion many aspects of life to enable businesses to curate content to individuals’ liking and advertise specifically to them. The idea of its use in healthcare is no different. Health data can be used to underpin certain critical decisions and put in place individualised care.

Analysing large amounts of data to determine patterns and trends that may exist, with a view to finding solutions, forecasting and predicting future possibilities is key to healthcare decision-making in the technologically advanced world in which we live. Data mining can be one of the most profound tools used in any industry that seeks to understand clients and customers’ needs, wants, dislikes and any other pattern that they may establish towards determining how best to serve their needs.

The end game in health is always to find ways in which to serve patients better and improve their health. Health informatics is more than just health technology. It is more about how technology is used to bring efficiency and improvement to various areas of health to ultimately achieve better health outcomes.

We often speak generally about the use of data and health informatics in a healthcare environment but there are benefits to be obtained by the many subsystems and sections of healthcare from the use of accessible and accurate data to drive decision-making. Nursing is one of them and it has much more application than just patient care. Nursing care is an important part of the healthcare ecosystem and health informatics can assist with organising this area more efficiently so that patient’s needs can be better served and nursing professionals can do their jobs in a more efficient way while ensuring their continuous development in the field as things rapidly evolve.

Nurses are at the front line of patient care and are often the first to witness shifts in customer requirements and better understand patient needs. There are several important functions of nursing that health informatics and having reliable and consistent data can contribute positively to. Documentation is one of them. With the volume of patients that enter a facility such as a hospital, nurses would need to properly record and store information on every aspect of care. This begins at the first point of contact for the patient and continues until discharge. This can create a tremendous amount of data on a patient that can be used to determine their individual care pathway as well extract best practices and solutions that can be used in other areas and for other similar cases.

This approach would ensure that decisions and best practices are evidence based. This is difficult to achieve without electronic data. Having this data means that information can easily and quickly be analysed and applied to various scenarios for the best outcomes. It also means that these decisions on the way forward can be universally applied to the organisation more seamlessly, for consistent use. Both patients and healthcare providers, especially nurses, stand to benefit from this.

Data use is not only applicable to patient care. It can also be useful to determine the level of staffing required in a particular area. One of the biggest issues for healthcare workers, especially doctors and nurses, is ‘burnout’. A shortage of these health professionals have long been the cry for many institutions. Documenting workflow can help with a more accurate analysis of the human resource requirements for each shift. It can also help administrators to fashion solutions that would best fit their organisation, staff and patients.

As healthcare continues to evolve, new areas of focus will begin to emerge. The data can point nursing administrators to the needs of the organisation and areas in which nurses will need to get more familiar to continue to adequately serve the needs of patients. New jobs will be created in the field and with the help of data, nurses can be in a position to fill these roles.

Doug Halsall is the chairman and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems. Email feedback to doug.halsall@gmail.com and columns@gleanerjm.com

Published: Saturday | September 25, 2021 | 12:09 AM