Analytics in healthcare: What is it and why is it important?
Analytics in healthcare is increasingly being viewed as the way forward for the industry. As with many other industries, the pandemic has played its part in speeding up how healthcare embraces technology, with the adoption of greater analytical capabilities now seen as more important than ever to improve processes and quality of care.
The US, for example, saw an increase in telehealth visits during the pandemic — essentially, remote healthcare enabled by the use of digital technology — which proved successful and helped to keep patients safe. Artificial Intellegence also proved paramount in the creation and roll out of COVID-19 vaccinations, as well as tracking positive cases. However, it’s not just during global health crises that technology proves useful to healthcare. In the UK, The Health Foundation have a vision for analytics and data-driven technology to be used more widely to improve the quality of healthcare that people receive.
With technology at the forefront of the industry’s vision going forward, we take a look at what exactly analytics in healthcare is — and why it is important.
What is healthcare analytics?
Healthcare analytics refers to the use of data that offers comprehensive insight into patients and the conditions that affect or have the potential to affect them. Analytics in healthcare can also provide insight into the effectiveness of healthcare providers themselves in terms of productivity, cost and general performance. Essentially, it is all about gathering and leveraging information to improve quality and efficiency of healthcare services.
The benefits of data analytics in healthcare
The advantages that advanced analytics in healthcare can bring are vast and well-recognised by those working within the industry. Let’s dive into some of the specific ways that data and analytics can support healthcare.
- Predict risks — As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. By collecting mass data, hospitals can identify common symptoms and causes of conditions and diseases. This helps doctors spot when a patient may be at risk of developing a certain health problem and treat them as early as possible.
- Make data-driven decisions — With more data at their disposal in regard to patient medical history and the health of the wider population, healthcare professionals can make informed decisions about individual treatment and how likely it is to be successful.
- Increase patient satisfaction — Insights from data can help doctors to personalise treatment and improve how they care for patients. Software can even assess the performance of healthcare professionals and provide feedback.
- Improve service delivery — Hospitals can use software to predict busier times and appropriately plan to meet demand, for example by having more staff on rota. This can help reduce long waiting times and shortages of beds.
- Electronic record-keeping — Storing medical records electronically, as opposed to on paper, also improves productivity by mitigating the problem of having multiple records. It also enables different healthcare professionals to access the same records without transporting paperwork between facilities.
- Reduce costs — With data improving patient care and allowing healthcare facilities to run more productively, treatment costs and other hospital expenses can be minimised.
Why is healthcare analytics important?
Despite the pandemic advancing how technology is used in healthcare, the industry is slow to adapt overall. For example, it has been reported that just over half of hospitals have no strategies for data governance or analytics in their day to day practices, and 97% of data produced by hospitals is wasted.
The Health Foundation similarly discovered that, although the NHS generates masses of data, they lack staff with the right analytical experience to interpret this data. Consequently, opportunities to improve services — such as by improving diagnoses and day-to-day care — are being missed. Similarly, leaders in the industry noted that the pandemic exposed many flaws within many health care systems with poor quality of data, time-consuming analytic processes, and staff lacking the training to use data properly being a common occurrence.
With much of the industry failing to innovate when it comes to technology, it is important to both understand the benefits that analytics can bring and consider how it can be incorporated into your organisation. After all, technology is only going to develop further, and the industry will need to innovate in order to be ready for future challenges. As industry professionals state, “digital health solutions and technology will play a crucial role in the difficult work of optimizing processes and systems for greater efficiency, financial viability, and enhanced outcomes.”
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