Posted by: Tony Shannon | November 30, 2011

Better Information, Better Health

Dr Foster is an interesting development over the last 10 years within the UK.  Its tagline is “Better Information, Better Health” and to quote from its own sources…

“Dr Foster was founded on an idea – the idea that collecting and publishing healthcare information would save lives. We believe that better information has made the NHS a safer, more efficient and more transparent service, and will continue to do so in the future.”

“Dr Foster exists to make healthcare data better and help healthcare organisations improve the quality of care. ”

They offer a hospital guide and each year they now publish a Hospital Guide report which highlights key messages distilled from the mass of data that the NHS generates each year. In this years Hospital Guide 2011 report, published this week some very interesting key patterns observed are included;

Excerpts taken from “10 things we have learned this year:”  (Page 5)

1. There are many ways to measure mortality rates but, however you measure it, some
hospitals appear to have consistently high and low mortality rates.

2. Being admitted to hospital at weekends is risky. Patients are less likely to get treated
promptly and more likely to die. The chances of survival are better in hospitals that
have more senior doctors on site.

3. Delivering safe care 24/7 does not require more resources. Local A&E departments
need to identify the services they can provide safely and link with others to provide
the services they can’t.

4. London has now achieved the lowest mortality rate following a stroke in England by
cutting the number of A&E departments treating stroke from 31 to eight, but making
sure those eight provide the highest standards of care.

5. Do not have an abdominal aneurysm repaired in one of the 39 hospitals that perform
the operation infrequently. Patients are much more likely to die.

6. Private hospitals providing services to NHS patients get good outcomes and positive
patient ratings. Of course they have a much easier task, dealing only with relatively fit
patients. Nonetheless, if you are one of those patients, these organisations can offer
a high-quality service.

7. Better care saves money. Hospitals that implement best practice in helping patients
recover quickly from surgery achieve better outcomes for less money.

8. Some aspects of patient safety are improving but harm to patients still happens
far too often. Unfortunately, we still do not record what happens to patients with
sufficient accuracy to properly gauge how best to tackle the problem. Improvements
to the data are the first essential step to addressing the problem.

9. Take note of what other patients say on the web about their care. It provides a
valuable insight. In some cases, more than three-quarters of patients commenting
say they would not recommend their hospital. In others, over 90 per cent would.

10. Staff behaviour is crucial to patient experience. Our analysis of patient comments
on the internet shows that disrespect and not being kept informed are the two main
reasons why patients would not recommend their hospital.

While these insights may be familiar to those of us at the frontline, by exposing these to the wider public, this approach could/should be positively disruptive. Naturally none of us like to be involved in the practice of sub optimal care, though due to the complexity of the system many factors can make high quality, safe, timely care a challenge. By “sunshining” and opening up this data, to highlight areas for improvement, it feels (overall) like a force for good.

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