Rob O’Neill, head of information at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay, discusses how healthcare providers can effectively introduce new data strategies

healthcare data pic

Data analytics are increasingly being used to enhance what NHS trusts can provide to patients

The ongoing digitalisation of the NHS has made integrating data strategies critically important for healthcare providers looking to enhance their day-to-day operations. Rob O’Neill, head of information at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay, discusses how providers can navigate this process effectively.


NHS trusts are constantly looking for new ways to drive efficiencies that will help relieve the growing pressure on our health system.

Many trusts across the UK – including my own – are increasingly exploring how technology and data can optimise operations and improve patient service delivery.

From tracking patient journeys, to managing critical medical resources, data analytics can help trusts efficiently and effectively improve patient care delivery.

At University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust (UHMBT), we’ve had great success in the approach we’ve taken to underpin better healthcare through data.

For those NHS trusts also looking to take their next steps in using analytics to support better healthcare, here are three key considerations when rolling out a best-in-practice data strategy.

healthcare data strategies
Rob O’Neill, head of information at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay


Considerations for rolling out data strategies in healthcare

Share data analysis

There is massive potential in the use of data to help the NHS reduce the pressure on hospitals and emergency departments – all through better preventative care and connected services.

Qlik’s new report into how data analytics can help NHS frontline workers revealed that many trusts are currently not sharing data for analysis with other organisations that would enable more effective preventative care in the community.

Yet, analysing data across different NHS and public health services will help identify many high-risk individuals where early interventions in the community could help prevent more serious issues requiring hospitalisation.

Here at UHMBT, we have been able to build a series of powerful apps, through the Qlik Sense platform, for the integrated care communities that are focused on care pathways.

We’ve moved from traditional healthcare analytics to looking at bespoke analytics for health issues, such as for strokes, type-2 diabetes, as well as for the frail and elderly.

By looking at the longitudinal care pathway, we’re able to identify the different points at which patients interact with providers of health and care services.

Implementing this kind of analysis to support population health is enabling clinical professionals who are based across the county to help patients better manage their health issues and reduce the pressure on already overburdened services.


Embed data decision-making into existing processes

Health professionals are generally time poor and are already having to balance their administrative work with patient-facing time.

While there are clear benefits to using insights to inform patient care delivery, data-informed decision making cannot become an additional layer of work.

Insights must be made readily available at the point of decision-making so that frontline workers can make it part of their working process.

One way to support the seamless integration of data into their existing working practices is to ensure mobile capabilities are made available and that, where possible, analytics dashboards are integrated into the applications healthcare staff are already using through selecting tools with open-APIs.

At UHMBT, we’ve also developed a cutting-edge analytical command centre, in partnership with Qlik, which enables our emergency department team to see at a glance the information they need to make data-informed decisions.

The command centre is a physical analytics hub, where five large touchscreen displays along the wall present different aspects of the emergency care journey.

From the number of ambulances en route to bed capacity, we can now track and manage individual patients’ journeys, which has revolutionised patient flow systems across our emergency department.

Now the numbers of patients triaged within 15 minutes of arrival has grown from around 65% to a position where the trust consistently triages 95% of patients within that timeframe.

This sort of real time analytics really matters – especially during periods of peak activity.

That’s why we were so pleased to work with Catalyst BI to help seven NHS trusts in London adopt modules of our analytical command centre to support their response to the current crisis.


Involve key stakeholders from the beginning

For trusts embarking on this shift towards more agile analytics, it is important that the design of new applications isn’t siloed to the data and information team.

Involving operational and clinical stakeholders in the design process of the applications they’ll be using is key to ensuring that the analytics strategy is developed to best support their work.

Our command centre, for example, has an intuitive display designed that can be used by anyone in A&E – be they nurses, clinicians or management staff.

By involving staff in the design process and incorporating feedback from operational and clinical stakeholders from the beginning, analytic strategies and tools can be developed around how to best maximise the use of data by all the relevant stakeholders.


Using data and analytics with confidence

We’ve seen first-hand how instrumental the use of analytics has been in improving resource management, population health strategies and patient care delivery at UHMBT.

There’s an opportunity for all NHS trusts to implement a best-in-practice data strategy.

However, it doesn’t just happen overnight. With these considerations in mind, trusts can confidently take their next steps in using analytics to underpin even better healthcare.