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5 Steps to Data Quality Success

Data Quality is a popular topic – how good is that! Uploading Shared Health Summaries to the My Health Record system raised awareness that for some practices this was a very easy 20 second process, for others it was currently unworkable due to sometimes 10-15 years of ‘mess’ in the patient record. To help with this data quality challenge I recently created and presented a Webinar (for the Australian Digital Health Agency) called ‘Standards for Digital Health’  – click here to watch the Webinar Recording.

Witaim-for-excellencehout doubt, data quality is the number one reason I see for slow progress with digital health. Without doubt, the possibility that doctors may be viewing a health summary that may not be perfect is the number one concern I hear from doctors about using the My Health Record system.

I like the idea of aiming for perfection. Until such time as clinicians/patients/technology & its users all become perfect though, let’s go with ‘excellent’.

In this new era patients will see their own health data (more on this in the webinar). Let’s share good quality information.

With a shared health summary we are talking about updating 5 essential components of a patient’s health record: 1) demographics 2) allergies, 3) medications, 4) medical history and 5) immunisations. When I am being cheeky I say to doctors “My invoice can’t be 50% correct, how come my medication list can be? Isn’t health more important?” We can only control what is in our own clinical systems so let’s start there and ensure we are sharing the best quality information.

This Webinar and blog is to help those practices for whom improving data collection and the quality of that data is a significant challenge. These slides include a lot of resources, links to standards and further learning. I encourage practices to watch the Webinar recording. Ideally watch it together as a team and use this as a ‘quality improvement’ activity  and plan next steps for your practice. It does not matter how small the next step is as long we keep improving.

Technology is not going backwards and collecting clinical information of the highest standard is no longer optional!

Standards for Digital Health

RACGP Standards say we must have an ‘up-to-date health summary’ for our ‘active’ patients (those we’ve seen 3 times in the past 2 years). To bill an MBS item we must have collected ‘accurate health data’ in the patient’s medical record and the Australian Privacy Principles stipulate ‘quality of personal information’. (We go into much more detail on this in the Webinar).

It is vital that quality data is captured and maintained in our patient health records so that it is:

  1. Accurate and coded correctly (much more on this in the Webinar).
  2. Relevant and able to be easily interpreted by others
  3. Easy to share – with good quality data you can generate a referral or upload a health summary to My Health Record in seconds!

Here’s the RACGP compliance checklist for Quality Health Records.

To those who already have excellent data quality I applaud you. I am fortunate enough to work with some of you – Australia’s best practices – and I share some of your tips for success.

5 steps to building a ‘Quality’ Practice:

  1. Create a Culture of Data Quality  (lots more on this in the Webinar)
  2. Set small achievable goals
  3. Use data extraction tools for monitoring and reporting 
  4. Monitor and Reward Improvements – no matter how small
  5. Maintain the integrity of the health summary by updating reactively.

Some doctors I work with do not have any issue with curating their patient’s health summary. What these doctors do differently is they update the health summary for their regular patients reactively. By this I mean when information returns electronically into the software eg. when a discharge summary is received, they add the procedure/diagnosis in the past history of the patient record then and there. When a Specialist letter is received, they open the patient record and add the medication detailed in the Specialist letter etc.

“I update my patients’ health summaries when I receive results or correspondence into my Inbox. I don’t look at this as taking me more time as I know it will save me time in other ways” Dr John Aloizos, Principal GP Garden City Medical Centre

GPs will often tell me this takes too much time however as we receive more and more information electronically into that Inbox/Holding File we will need to ensure our practice systems for processing this electronic information are keeping up.  The best approach we can take now is to streamline those practice processes. Countless times I have heard the frustrated phrase from doctors “I didn’t know that’s how it worked, I never got any software training when I started”.  I can’t tell you how often a simple explanation of how the software works leads to acceptance of why to enter data and how this can be done to maximise benefit.

I can absolutely see a time there won’t be that paper (looking forward to when I talk about the old fax machine like I talk about the old manual typewriter) so now is the time to be looking at how efficient and safe your current practice systems are. Are you currently duplicating processes? Are your practice systems ready to take you into this new digital era?

Let’s aim for perfection and hopefully we will achieve excellent data quality that will benefit both patients and the wonderful clinicians and staff who care for them.

Thanks for reading!

With best wishes,
Katrina Otto

Quality is not an act, it is a habit” Aristotle

2 Responses to 5 Steps to Data Quality Success

  • Jane Bollen says:

    Hi Katrina, you have really hit the nail on the head- data quality!
    Over the last 8months, I have just been involved in the Caretrack Kids project. https://www.caretrackaustralia.org.au/ I was a research surveyor for 30 GP practice and 10 paediatricans practices. We surveyed clinical records of 40 patients with some of the 19 childhood conditions in each practice. My area was SA north and south Adelaide as well as country. The study will be written up next year, but it gave me great insight into practices not knowing the functionality of their clinical software. I guess I have had a unique position being able to use so many different software packages in both general practice and specialist practices.
    Keep up the good work, I do enjoy your blog.

  • Train IT Medical says:

    Hi Jane, Thank you for your great feedback. We seem to share very common goals and I look forward to reading that Caretrack Kids project report. I am hoping there are opportunities for us to collaborate in future. Thanks again, Katrina

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