NHS can use data to reduce accident and emergency deaths

06 June 2023 Consultancy.uk 4 min. read

Reports suggest there was a year-on-year rise in hospital accident & emergency deaths of 20% in 2023, leading to questions of how the healthcare sector might find ways to improve the intake process. According to Richard Hartill from Northdoor, some NHS Trusts have already implemented new business intelligence reporting solutions, which help provide faster, more accurate data, to reduce patient waiting times.

A recent Freedom of Information (FoI) request has suggested that more than 23,000 people died in accident & emergency in England last year, a rise of more than 20% 2021. This seems to correspond with a rise in NHS waiting times over the past few months. 

The Government’s four-hour standard waiting time target is being hit by relatively few hospitals and the backdrop of Covid-19 has meant that accident & emergency departments across the country are struggling to ensure patients are seen in good time. These latest stats have shown what impact these delays may have on patients.

NHS can use data to reduce A&E deaths

One problem hospitals face in addressing this, is that while they are aware they have the data that will help enable them to reduce waiting times, the ability to get hold of and share this data in a timely manner to ensure that more informed decisions is another matter. As a result, many organisations are turning to modern business intelligence (BI) reporting solutions in an effort that reflects the increase of digital transformation projects taking place in the healthcare sector.

Richard Hartill, a public sector client manager at Northdoor, noted, “These FoI stats are stark reading for everyone. With the combination of added pressure on accident & emergency departments and NHS staff because of Covid-19, a shortage of resource and more patients than ever coming through departments, it is perhaps not surprising that waiting times are increasing with the consequences that that brings.”

Hartill added that some NHS Trusts are also turning to modern BI platforms that produce more accurate reporting to operational, clinical and managerial teams in near real-time. This is easier said than done, though, as many hospitals have at the moment is that the collection of data is a slow and manual process.

He added, “With hundreds of patients coming into the department each day, the ability to manage this level of demand and adhere to the four-hour standard is extremely difficult when the data being received by these teams is old and possibly inaccurate.”

“Implementing a modern BI reporting platform means that these teams can now have access to automated, close to real-time views of statistics via dashboards presented on monitors within their department. This enables staff to better monitor and manage resources and patient flow, which in turn helps to meet targets and reduce waiting times.”

Costs of modernisation

“There is of course a cost associated with moving to a modernised automated BI reporting solution,” Hartill continued, “and away from legacy manual processes reliant on paper and Excel spreadsheets, which may concern budget holders.”

“However, to overcome that, forward thinking NHS organisations are embracing the shared services directive from NHS Digital and are working with local healthcare partners to share the use and cost of the system which is providing those organisations access to enterprise-level technology solutions that they previously might not have been able to afford.”

With funding shortfalls, chronic understaffing, and demographic shifts placing the NHS under considerable strain at the moment, hospital accident & emergency departments are particularly under pressure because of patient targets – as well as an ongoing number of media headlines reporting on ‘poor-performance’.

With the added frustration of knowing that much of the data needed to help improve performance sits within departments, Hartill asserted that trusts “seem to be in an impossible position.”

However, by working with external IT consultancies and local healthcare partners, increasing numbers of NHS Trusts have been able to improve performance by implementing modern BI reporting platforms that provide the near real-time data required, with the added benefit of being able to share the associated costs.

This has meant that “better informed, more timely decisions have been able to be made that have helped to improve patient waiting time targets and the patients cared for,” concluded Hartill.”