How do you measure quality in healthcare? It's a question that is top of mind in an industry where quality is both expected and difficult to define.
The United States is an outlier in healthcare. It spends more on healthcare per capita than any other wealthy nation, and yet it underperforms when it comes to many key metrics, including hospital admissions for preventable diseases and rates of medical, medication, and lab errors.
Bridging the gap between how much the U.S. healthcare system spends and the quality of the outcomes it provides has rightfully become a major concern — heightened by the system-wide shift to value-based care. There's a growing need to collect not simply data but the right data, and to measure it in a way that provides actionable insights — for health plans and regulators, and more importantly, for patients and providers.
Fortunately, hospitals have a lot of data at their fingertips. As more of them learn how to capitalize on this data, the path to true quality improvement becomes clearer.
Here are three ways hospitals are using data to drive improvements in the quality of care they provide and change their practices for the better.
1. Benchmarking with scorecards and dashboards
At the crux of quality improvement is the notion that if you don't measure something, you can't make it better, or demonstrate that you are making it better. It's up to health systems and individual hospitals to figure out best practices for achieving quality improvement and making it last long term. For that, they need data — and lots of it.
Scoreboards and dashboards are two digital tools that hospitals use to track their quality performance, minute-by-minute and over longer periods of time. Scorecards are managed by hospital leadership, and serve as benchmarking tools to evaluate performance on pre-determined quality metrics. Dashboards are managed by frontline staff, and are updated on the floor for constant monitoring of quality successes and failures.
These tools are evidence of not just individual hospitals' efforts to improve quality, but a complete overhaul of the way the entire health system approaches data analytics. Today, 83% of hospitals expect their c-suite employees to have health IT experience, and there's a strong expectation of staff at all levels to collect actionable insights on quality in a way that's more intelligent than standard spreadsheets and tables.
2. Putting laboratory data to work
Some of the healthcare system's most valuable data lives in the lab. Laboratory data, and diagnostic data in particular, provides fundamental insights into the health of patient populations — both as individuals, and as a whole. When used effectively, this data can save the U.S. healthcare system an estimated $900 million a year in avoidable costs.
But making appropriate use of lab data means going beyond just monitoring patient health. Hospitals that want to see marked quality improvements can use the information gleaned from diagnostic testing to make rapid decisions based on real-time findings, instead of offering broad treatments that may or may not address actual care concerns. The results: fewer ICU and general hospital admissions, reduced lengths of stay, and fewer on-site infections.
3. Patient-reported outcomes
Patients are one of the best resources hospitals have when it comes to gleaning information about the quality of their care. And it makes sense: quality may be regulated from above, but it’s patients who directly experience the wins and losses of a hospital's performance.
Patient-Reported Outcomes Measures (PROMs) are collected and used in various ways. There's PROMIS (Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System), for example, a statistically validated tool created with funding from the National Institutes of Health. PROMIS simplifies the process of collecting patient insights at each stage of care, with digital surveys that provide highly detailed reports providers and leadership can use to guide decision making.
There are also less formal practices for collecting PROMs, including feedback forms provided to patients at the end of their hospital stays that ask them to rate their care and whether their goals and expectations were met.
The data collected through PROMs may be inherently subjective, but it provides hospitals with guidance for improving quality at the patient level. Patients are the purveyors of hospital services, so it makes sense that their opinions and experiences would be a centralized concern of facilities seeking to improve wherever possible.
As health systems consolidate and patients become savvier consumers, the onus is on hospitals to figure out the best methods for measuring the data that matters. For assistance putting your hospital's data to work for quality improvements, explore Conduent Midas Health Analytics and schedule a call with our Consulting and Advisory Services to discuss your facility's unique data needs.