The intelligent use of data and technology can play a significant role in managing clinical risk in both the private and public healthcare sectors.
Harnessing the power of data insights to manage clinical risk represents a proactive shield for safety and the field of data-driven clinical risk management is constantly evolving. With advances in data integration, analytics, and machine learning offering promising solutions, healthcare institutions are increasingly recognising the value of data for improving patient safety.
As experienced healthcare management consultants we have supported numerous trusts manage risk through the improvement of data systems, serious incident reporting, and the development of pioneering healthcare investigation software. Each with the goal of improving patient safety, as well as saving healthcare providers time and money.
Data holds immense potential for enhancing patient safety, but using it effectively has faced several challenges in the past. Overcoming these hurdles is crucial to improving healthcare services both in terms of patient safety and the environment in which staff operate.
What is clinical risk management in healthcare?
Clinical risk management is a systematic approach to identifying, analysing, assessing, and controlling risks associated with the delivery of healthcare. It’s a proactive strategy that aims to prevent adverse events from happening to patients, such as medication errors, healthcare-associated infections, and surgical complications.
It also helps to empower staff with actionable risk intelligence which contributes to building a culture of safety and continuous improvement.
There are a number of tools which healthcare providers can employ to reduce clinical risk through data analysis and minimising human error.
The principles of human performance play a significant role in patient safety as it allows systems and processes to be designed which reduce the possibility of such errors occurring. One example is the WHO surgical safety checklist which aims to decrease errors and adverse events, and increase teamwork and communication in surgery.
Equally important are healthcare data systems which aim to manage clinical risk by recording incidents in a standardised way so that actionable reports and insights can generated.
For example, sharing knowledge between trusts to identify areas for improvement, or a daily report that goes to the chief nurse, medical director and quality and safety team that highlights any harm incidents, allowing for quick identification of potential serious incidents.
What are the benefits of managing clinical risk for healthcare providers?
Healthcare organisations should embrace any opportunity to reduce the occurrence of serious incidents using systems which enable the discovery of patterns within data to help predict and prevent adverse events before they happen.
Managing clinical risk also helps to promote a culture of safety within the organisation which reduces the occurrence of adverse events and enhances the quality of healthcare being provided. Not only this, it helps organisations protect their reputation and avoid financial and legal consequences arising from serious incidents.
The WHO surgical safety checklist is now used by a majority of surgical providers around the world and has shown a significant reduction in both morbidity and mortality. This is because in industrialised countries, nearly half of all adverse events in hospitalised patients are related to surgical care and at least half of the cases in which surgery led to harm are considered preventable.
Data-driven clinical risk management challenges
Healthcare data systems need to be developed and managed effectively for them to be helpful. Verita was previously called in to support a trust with its risk management system which wasn’t performing optimally and meant that data wasn’t being entered correctly, nor could useful reports be pulled.
We helped update the structure of the system to improve how incidents were recorded, upskilling staff to use the system effectively, and design a wide suite of further reports that would support the trust’s daily operations, compliance against KPIs and high-level reporting to the board.
As well as this, the system ensured that processes were in place for adhering to the Duty of Candour, the Serious Incident reporting process and ensuring that normal incidents are handled appropriately.
Moreover, spotting trends in data to identify areas where improvements can be made can be challenging. Fragmented data systems containing isolated electronic health records, which use disparate formats and standards makes it even more difficult to analyse the data and gain valuable insights.
“The NHS manages data in different systems that do not connect effectively or efficiently. Every day, clinicians and other hospital staff spend time on the phone and in meetings, trying to join this information up themselves—to manage their theatre lists, waiting lists and information on patients ready to be discharged. This time could be better spent caring for patients.”
Victoria Atkins – The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
How can data-driven technology be used to manage risk?
New technology is rapidly transforming healthcare and offering exciting possibilities for managing clinical risk. In November 2023 the NHS unveiled the new NHS Federated Data Platform (FDP) which will connect data, such as health records, waiting lists and theatre and staff rosters between NHS trusts and integrated care systems (ICSs).
During a pilot scheme of 26 trusts, the increased ability to organise clinics by integrating and consolidating data from different hospital systems has been described as “game-changing” by clinicians. The improvement in data usage resulted in lower waiting times, reduced discharge delays and quicker diagnoses.
To further improve patient safety and improve governance and regulatory compliance, Verita have developed a revolutionary technology called Eva which supports those carrying out serious incident investigations. As a leading independent investigator we know that streamlining the investigation process results in greater consistency and quality in reporting, as well as an improved experience for investigators.
Eva provides unprecedented data insights which allow for real time knowledge and recommendations to be made, as well as presenting an opportunity to share learnings across sites, trusts and on a national level. The data-driven learning can then be used to improve systems which ultimately result in safer services and better care for patients.
Systems such as Eva utilise powerful business analytics to analyse vast amounts of clinical data to identify patterns and predict patient outcomes, allowing clinicians to proactively manage risks associated with specific conditions or treatments.
Analytical systems can provide real-time alerts and recommendations to clinicians based on patient data and best practices, reducing the risk of medication errors and inappropriate interventions.
As well as capturing data in a standardised system rather than handwritten notes, there are a number of other areas where improvements in data gathering and analysis can improve patient safety. For example, advances in wearable devices allow continuous monitoring of vital signs, while virtual consultations improve access to specialists and facilitate timely interventions, reducing the risk of complications from delayed treatment.
Do patients play a role in managing clinical risk?
A less obvious solution to managing clinical risk is the role of patients in maintaining the accuracy of their data. During consultations it is important that patients ensure that the symptoms being logged by clinicians are accurate to avoid history being rewritten. A miscommunication could result in an incorrect path being taken leading to delays in administering the correct treatment.
Additionally, online tools and mobile apps can help to educate patients about their conditions, promote medication adherence, and encourage healthy lifestyle choices, reducing the risk of complications.
It’s important to remember that managing clinical risk is not about eliminating all risks entirely – that’s simply impossible. Instead, it’s about making informed decisions about which risks are worth taking and which ones need to be addressed to ensure the safety and well-being of patients and staff.
New technology offers immense potential for improving the safety and quality of healthcare by enhancing risk management in numerous ways. As we continue to evolve and refine these technologies, we can build a more connected, data-driven, and ultimately safer healthcare environment for patients and professionals alike.
By combining knowledge, technology and data, patient safety can be improved.
To learn more about Eva and how the application could transform your organisation’s investigation process, visit the Eva website or contact Verita director Chris Brougham on 07872 130637 or at [email protected] to schedule a free demonstration.
If you would like to know more about how data-driven insights can help your healthcare organisation with managing clinical risk, please book a free consultation or contact Ed Marsden on 020 7494 5670 or [email protected].