Lack of access to reliable and accurate information is a common theme for healthcare organisations, and can hinder your operation across all management levels. The right data, and the insights it can deliver, can help you establish benchmarks and improve your understanding of where changes are needed.
While the Australian state and territory governments provide around 90 per cent of funds (around $60 billion per year) for public hospitals, governments alone cannot be expected to find innovative solutions for this ever-rising cost.
Good quality data can help support the monitoring process for both governments and health service boards. When used effectively, data can help decision-makers identify issues, develop interventions, and evaluate actions.
There are four key areas where the use of data that is timely, comparable, and accessible can reduce avoidable costs and improve patient outcomes.
Identifying and responding to avoidable costs
High quality data is important to support required monitoring and management. However, it requires ongoing attention and monitoring, both of which are challenging in resource-constrained environments. The need for new and updated data will always be required, which is why teams need to look at educating staff to collate information so that benchmarks can be set and changes measured.
Managing workforce issues
Making reporting a requirement for more timely information about staff absenteeism will help you to know when and how to make the best management decisions. Healthcare services need to be able to collect standardised, consistent data to identify problem areas, make data-driven decisions, and trim costs. Additionally, there are benefits from sharing benchmarking information across services efficiently to better manage staff absenteeism and improve staff satisfaction.
Cultural and organisational change
An Australian study, using data from 212 public hospitals across Australia, investigated the costs of caring for children with medical complexities. They found these children, while only accounting for a small percentage of hospitalisations, accounted for nearly one-third of all hospital costs for children.
The Complex Care program at the Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH news, 2016) tackled this issue, where three per cent of patients were using 15 per cent of the bed days, with a new model of care which was piloted and evaluated in 2014-15. These families were allocated a consultant that provided care coordination, timely access to advice, and support for the family. It resulted in a 50 per cent reduction in bed days and emergency department presentations and a 77 per cent positive result for patient and family satisfaction.This shows the benefit of collecting and analysing good-quality data, which can help you identify cultural and organisational change and lead to opportunities for improvement in workforce issues and costs. In this instance, looking at data from the perspective of the quality of care provided, and also from the perspective of the impact of the care, can also provide opportunities for growth in other areas such as customer satisfaction.
Address unnecessary health service costs
Lack of visibility into real-time workforce costs can impact your ability to pinpoint areas to trim costs. Accurate and timely data create data-driven decisions, which can have a positive impact on workforce efficiency. It also supports benchmarking, as comparisons can easily be made when viewing differences across services of departments.
There are often challenges due to outdated practices and processes. But there are also opportunities to do things differently, in a more cost-effective way. The need for relevant, high-quality, real-time data to monitor, change, and evaluate is crucial to support improved outcomes and help organisations reach benchmarks.
All Australians need a public hospital system that provides high quality care at a reasonable and, perhaps more importantly, sustainable price.
For more insight and recommendations on how to trim staff costs: Download our Whitepaper: Rising Staff Costs in Hospitals and Health Services
Dean is the Business Development and Product Director at Allocate Software , responsible for ensuring our solutions meet the requirements for our customers. Dean has been involved in the business for more than 20 years and wrote the original version of RosterOn, the workforce management software that is helping more than 80 customers in Australia and New Zealand by delivering safe staffing and productivity savings.