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Making data from your services a steady part of care delivery might seem complicated or far from the frontline. For starters, it isn’t. And the difference is considerable. But what does it actually mean to be data-driven? For sure, it isn’t new and surprisingly fantastic. However, the change from paper documentation to digitally evidencing your care delivery makes a lot more information available, which can be put to use. Ultimately to obtain better care outcomes.
What we would like to suggest is to focus on how to support decision-making through the use of data. The extreme opposite being that of decisions based on habit or hunch. We have taken a look at how to work with data in social care.
To begin with, what is really defining data-driven? Or data-informed? In our understanding, letting data be the focal point of your company’s decision-making process, you are agreeing that the best decisions are made based on data from care delivery. Essentially, the best decisions regarding residents’ well-being or health have been qualified by care workers’ input.
Data-informed decisions employ a more lenient view of the role of data. Instead of solely relying on data to decide, factors such as gut feeling and customer experience have an impact. You basically look at the data in its entire context rather than just the raw data itself.
So, what is the best approach?
Using the data-driven approach you run the risk of chasing down incremental improvements since radical changes are difficult to measure through data. To be truly data-driven you also need a large amount of data and a way of decoding it to make sure the decisions are accurate. On the other hand, data driven decision making makes for quicker decisions since it removes the human aspect from the decision making. This also removes some of the bias there might be. But is that what we should aim for?
The data-informed approach requires more time to analyse and it is more difficult to come to any final conclusion. On top, it requires previous experience and energy to be critical of what data might initially show you. Looking for alternate explanations of why the data might indicate something is not an easy task and requires time and commitment to do.
Maybe the case isn’t whether to work this or that way, but to frankly start using data available across the organisation to learn lessons, plan, predict and maximise care outcomes?
Does more data equal better care? There are no guarantees. However, four essential points are worth considering in order to support and empower the use of data in social care.
Data and statistics can basically be twisted and turned to fit any narrative you want. Essentially, this means that data is not the be-all and end-all. Your service does not have to be high-scorers in every aspect. Just the metrics that are relevant to your organisation. This means that the first step in choosing the right data view is to find out what is valuable to your business. And to your customers. In this case the service users. And what about the staff here? When this has been made clear it is more straightforward to identify any relevant metrics.
In addition, it is important to note that some things are harder to measure. How would we quantify the value of a personal conversation? Or the extra time spent in respite care circumstances? Maybe the value of data here is directed towards other stakeholders, such as relatives or inspection bodies. The data and metrics have to support care activities. Never hinder them.
In relation to choosing the right metrics, it is also a balancing act to work data-oriented while not losing sight of the mission.
A metrics game can easily seduce you into chasing numbers, rather than actual goals. So, it is of utmost importance to choose metrics that benefit the actual goals. Residents’ quality of life, staff retention and other important stuff. In addition, it is important to create realistic metrics since way too ambitious metrics will have a demoralising effect on staff should they fail to reach them.
During a busy workday, it might seem like a utopia to find time to immerse yourself in working more closely with data. Especially if you are not trained to doing so. Or the organisation does not have the required procedures or tools in place to get going.
Hence, it is a prerequisite to have access to tools that help aggregate and display data in an intuitive way. In Sekoia we know digital care planning, and how to turn data input from care delivery into valuable metrics. Our experience is that when the procedures are in place, it is a matter of keeping an eye on the benefits of working with the data. By looking at the ins and outs of the data, it is possible to identify where the strengths and weaknesses of the day-to-day operations lie. In relation, it will thereby be possible to share best practice across care homes and identify areas for improvement. This way of working is what can be described as using data for business intelligence.
These benefits might seem quite abstract and difficult to gain use from, but there are also more tangible benefits of working with data in your services. One of the areas we historically have seen a lot of potential in improving is reducing the number of serious incidents in the care homes. For instance, an LD customer reported a 92 % decrease in serious incidents compared to the year before. How? They altered their workflow to reflect on how the staff really operated. Putting the needed information and notes in the hands of the nurses and other professionals at the point of care. As opposed to having the same information somewhere in the workstations or offices. In this case, allowing all staff members to access information about medication, even reminding them about this in the point of care, ensured transparency and more precise treatment.
Investing in using data can have pitfalls, but also hold immense potential. In a perfect situation, a data-oriented approach will help a care provider reach new levels of care.
With a lot of data at your disposal, you can start to work more predictive. If you have access to the data surrounding all serious incidents you might be able to spot some trends leading up to the incident. If you are able to do so, you might also be able to predict when the next serious incident is approaching and thereby stop it in its tracks. This is what working with big data in a care home setting is all about.
Another by-product of a data-oriented approach is an easier time showcasing how your care home is complying with legislation. With access to a comprehensive dataset, you are able to confidently and thoroughly prepare and produce evidence for the next CQC inspection or other bodies of interest. Further, working even more structured with data, you are able to follow any regime or classification model. Like WHO’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. Also known as the ICF.
In general, you will be able to make decisions that are based on more tangible information and organizational procedure. Rather than individual gut-feeling. This will, hopefully, make it easier to transfer successes at individual care homes across the entire organisation.
By making business improvements, the time spent on disseminating and analysing data will pay dividends if it can be leveraged into efficiency improvements. For instance, imagine saving 1,5 hours a day on documentation by improving the way you document in practice. Freeing up more warm hands to provide care has the potential to manifest itself with better care, happier staff, or cost savings.
So, how to get started on the data journey? In our experience, here are some of the most important steps to know:
Whether you aim to be data-driven or data-informed is up to you, but one thing is for certain. Data and the use of data is not just a buzzword that is relevant to a select few industries. It will continue to have a larger and larger influence on the care sector and can potentially be a significant factor in propelling social care forward. And usher in the care homes of tomorrow.