Scott Baker, Product Manager at Hicom, one of the UK’s most established healthcare software companies, outlines how a focus on data quality and analytics can help drive efficiencies and cost savings in the recruitment, selection and training of UK health care professionals (HCPs).
Can you tell us about the work you are doing with organisations in the NHS?
Our technology helps manage the selection and on-going training of UK medical, dental, public health and healthcare science professionals. It underpins the system through which trainee HCPs can apply for training and progress through structured training programmes within the NHS, helping to streamline a number of workforce management processes and remove what have historically been time consuming and complex manual processes. The results are significant time and cost saving benefits to healthcare organisations and trainee healthcare professionals alike.
What difference does the quality of the data that is gathered have upon the efficiency of the workforce selection and management processes?
Software that supports and improves workforce management processes is only part of the solution. Having access to high quality data that can be used in a meaningful way completes the picture.
Data captured during the selection and training of a healthcare professional is being used to provide valuable insight that can inform strategic decisions about future workforce needs. Using smart analytics we are able to analyse large and complex datasets to identify trends and factors in the workforce, with the results used to continually refine and improve selection and training processes.
As pressure on NHS front line services increases, the need for high-quality data that can be used to increase efficiencies in the selection process and improve on-going training is vital.
What are some of the biggest challenges in the recruitment of student doctors and nurses within the NHS and how can data ultimately affect the bottom line?
Two of the biggest challenges for workforce planning are trainee attrition and the failure of students to meet required qualification standards. Drop-outs are a natural occurrence in any training programme and can never be totally eradicated. However, attrition rates for NHS training remain consistent and have a significant impact on cost, business continuity and ultimately, and most importantly, on patient care.
The financial implications of attrition are equally severe. With it reported to cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to train each student, it is important to maximise the investment in a trainee to ensure that they last the course and that they ultimately make the grade.
Using historical data and trend analysis techniques, we are able to predict with a reasonably high degree of accuracy trainee cohorts that are most likely to face difficulties that may result in a failure to complete or an extension of their training programme. This type of analysis helps identify risk patterns, with the potential for the results to be used to support trainees early in the training cycle. We are also able to use data to build up a qualitative picture of training, which can be used to establish benchmarks and further help identify trainees who may require support.
Typically it takes a doctor between 7 and 10 years from medical school to complete a specialist training programme so significant costs can be saved by using the data to proactively monitor quality and manage factors that contribute towards attrition.
How can today’s healthcare organisations utilise data it in the most effective way?
Leaders and workforce planning teams have the opportunity to use data to support business-critical decisions, particularly when that data is already there.
Historically vital data has sat in disparate, local systems. As efforts to join these datasets together gather pace, the chance to move towards more proactive models of predictive analytics become real. At the local level, informatics systems have enabled organisations to chart the movement of trainees, measure their progress and evaluate their performance. These systems have provided valuable local metrics but the integration of multiple datasets at a regional or national level takes the capabilities of healthcare organisations to another level.
For a long time now the focus of software providers has been on the automation of operational processes. As informatics is now widely used to support the healthcare workforce, the attention is turning towards the use of the incredibly valuable data that has been collected as a result. Within the arena in which we work, we have the opportunity to make workforce planning more effective and improve the quality of healthcare professional training, with outcomes that will deliver significant cost benefits to the NHS and ultimately enhances the quality of patient care.