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Health Analytics – can it save the NHS?

Tuesday 2 June 2015

The future of the NHS proved to be a key issue in this year’s general election – cited as the second most important factor to voters just behind immigration.

Currently the NHS is in crisis – little to no increase in annual funding has resulted in the institution pushed to the limit. The A&E waiting time target had been missed for 33 consecutive weeks since September 2014 until recent figures showed the waiting time target had been achieved.

Despite once again hitting their target, there are concerns that the NHS is operating at full capacity. There have been frequent complaints of overworked staff and over the past four years staff absences have doubled from mental health related issues. All of this shows that these concerns have substance.

The NHS is reaching breaking point. Something has got to be done.

NHS England’s Chief Executive Simon Stevens stated in October 2014 that the NHS requires an extra £8 billion by 2020 to prevent a funding gap that will continue to decrease the quality of care patients will receive.

In terms of health spending, The King’s Fund report found the NHS has a lower than average spend as a proportion of GDP on health than comparable western countries – including the United States, France, Germany and Netherlands (based on OECD health data from 2014).

Is the NHS really making the most out of the resources it has?

At first glance it would seem so. Whilst not having the same amount of public funding supplied like its other western neighbours the NHS was identified as the best performing health service in the EU by The Commonwealth Fund.

The report looked at a number of various performance metrics including waiting times, patient satisfaction, etc. and showed that the UK outscored each of the countries analysed in the report, including the most expensive healthcare institution in the world (as a proportion of GDP) – the USA.

The analysis indicates that despite relatively low funding, the NHS is actually still performing extremely well, regardless of not being able to meet its self-regulated targets.

However, one could argue that the physical and mental strain on staff to achieve these targets needs to be addressed. In a poll of 15,560 GP’s conducted by the British Medical Association (BMA) found that 34% of GP’s intend to stop working by 2020, with many others wishing to go part-time or work abroad.

Staff time could be better allocated and the information for each patient case could be better distributed to ensure that staff resources are being used as efficiently as possible.

The NHS Data Infrastructure

One problem the NHS has when looking at improving efficiencies is that all of its data is siloed. Until they are able to break down the barriers between their data silo’s and combine their data they will never be achieve maximum efficiency without a holistic view of organisational data.

In a Volterra report commissioned by NHS England, Volterra’s Global Development Director said that the current use of data within the NHS was “fragmented, rudimentary and not yet fit for purpose”.

In another report created by Volterra and Medium they found that it takes 32% of public sector respondents hours to move and manipulate large and/or complex data set or analysis. A quarter of respondents state that it takes days to get responses to queries that interrogate organisational data.

In an environment where agility and speed is a key objective, “hours” is simply not good enough, and “days” is grossly inefficient.
The NHS needs a solution that is user friendly enough to be utilised by all staff- whether technical or non-technical, capable of integrating all of their data into one place and providing an analytics and reporting capability that is only limited by how fast you can think, type or click and is not restricted by technology.

Search-Powered Analytics – the answer?

In Gartner’s latest Magic Quadrant Report for Business Intelligence and Analytics, they explained in regards to search-powered analytics that “Natural-language query technology will become an increasingly important means of delivering analytics to mainstream business users. A search index architecture is also an alternative approach to ingesting and modelling data for analysis, that reduces the time and complexity of traditional approaches.”

This relatively short but impactful statement appears to address the key data and analytics issues facing the NHS that were previously mentioned in this post.

Based on this evidence, a search-powered analytics solution such as CXAIR is perfectly positioned to achieve success in the NHS and other healthcare organisations. However, its success, like every organisation-wide solution is dependent on the right culture being established in order to draw the benefits from the solution.

Analytics can save the NHS. What is important is that the NHS looks and procures a solution that matches their needs and requirement, enabling them to cut costs and streamline organisational processes making it a more effective and efficient outfit.

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