Opinion

Care insights and data analytics: Connecting the dots

By Justine Abson, head of marketing for Radar Healthcare

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Justine Abson, head of marketing for Radar Healthcare, explores why she believes care insights derived from data analytics offer more than just the ability to identify cause and effect, they are also vital in the creation of a health ecosystem capable of meeting the needs of a growing ageing population.

In 20 years’ time, the number of people aged over 65 in the UK is expected to increase by four million.

And if Age UK’s recent report ‘The State of Health and Care of Older People in England 2023’ is anything to go by – we’ve got a challenging road ahead of us.

With the UK’s health and social care system under immense pressure, it’s clear that joined up care is the ultimate goal.

To make this a reality, the report calls for a radical overhaul in the approach to and delivery of care for older people, with Age UK asking for strong political leadership and a nationwide effort from the NHS, local authorities, partner organisation and care providers.

And certainly, we need change.

As our population grew and their health and care needs became ever more complex, so too did siloed working.

The latter wasn’t out of choice, but necessity.

The infrastructure or technology just wasn’t there to allow health and care insight and information to flow freely, let alone in real time.

Health and social care was disjointed, clunky at best.

But now, we have an opportunity to change that with technology and data analytics supporting us to work as an ecosystem, to help connect the dots.

Take for example how we could get better insight into cause and effect, with a keen eye on how these learnings can become prevention.

According to the Age UK report, the over 65s represent almost a quarter (21 per cent) of A&E attendance.

And while this increase is likely a consequence of factors such as reduced primary care access and a strained social care system, a more worrying statistic the report identified was that around half (48.8 per cent) of attendances that arrived by ambulance was from this age group.

With over 41 per cent being admitted into hospital and requiring an inpatient stay.

Falls were the largest cause of emergency admissions for people aged 65.

The report added that in 2021/22, there were 263,245 emergency readmissions of people over 75 within 30 days of discharge.

This translates into 1 in 6 (18 per cent) emergency admissions in over 75s occurring within 30 days of last being discharged from hospital.

Commenting on these findings Age UK added: ‘Emergency readmissions where patients are readmitted to hospital in an emergency within 30 days of discharge may result from potentially avoidable adverse events, though others may be due to unrelated or unforeseen causes of admission’.

These statistics show all too clearly how small changes can quickly escalate into crises.

Something as seemingly simple as a UTI or a fall can lead to hospital stays and overall health deterioration, so spotting early warning signs and acting fast matters.

Often that means identifying subtle patterns that even the most dedicated care staff are not able to see.

However, technology has a significant role to play here.

Systems like Radar Healthcare’s which aggregate fragmented data across healthcare organisations, including care home groups can pinpoint trends and unlock hidden insights.

For example, falls recurring in a particular location might indicate the room should be reconfigured.

Or a change in dining environment could be linked to resident weight loss.

A fall can indeed be linked to an accident, but often there’s a more complex chain of events at its root.

Radar Healthcare’s system uses machine learning to analyse data and flag potential problems for staff to then investigate, create data based personalised care plans and allow close monitoring – ultimately preventing hospital admission.

Being interoperable with other systems such as care planning software and electronic patient records also joins the dots, so analysis is undertaken across all areas, not just incidents as they occur.

The Age UK report also found ‘once admitted, older people have longer hospital stays and are more likely to experience delayed discharge’.

Getting people back to health and into their own homes is vital for their own wellbeing and to release services for others.

And again, data insights could help speed up that safe transition.

Four Seasons Healthcare put this into action – assessing patients using the Barthel index – an ordinal scale used to measure performance in activities of daily living.

With Radar Healthcare, Four Seasons Health Care was able to create bespoke workflows to help record Barthel Index scores together with a suite of risk assessments throughout a patient’s hospital stay.

Part of the care provider’s support of the Intermediate Care Framework, this insight informs when a patient is ready to be discharged and more successfully manages their safe return home.

Looking ahead, imagine how powerful integrating the numerous data sources that exist across health and social care could be.

The work at Radar Healthcare is turning this vision into reality.

A project that’s part funded by Innovate UK is currently in development which will help to improve the quality of care.

The solution will aggregate care insights from third-party data sources, including remote monitoring equipment and wearables, IoT devices, electronic patient records, care planning software and also from information added manually by health and care staff.

Together this provides a single source of truth, makes managing risk easier, relives the admin burden, and streamlines compliance and patient safety reporting.

The cognitive load for staff is greatly reduced and residents remain the central focus.

Reflecting on Age UK’s sobering findings, data analytics present a real opportunity to connect the dots and transform our health and social care system.

Now is the time to collectively respond to Age UK’s call to arms.

Invest in the powerful digital tools that exist today to turn insight into action and create a new ecosystem that will shore up care for our future ageing population.

Find out how Radar Healthcare’s platform could help you to create actionable health insights here.

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