Martin Gladding, Managing Director of maxwell stanley consulting, explores how inaccurate Trust activity data impacts your Trust, your patients and our NHS.

Activity data is at the core of our healthcare system and drives decisions at a Trust, local and national level to improve patient pathways, enhance patient care, ensure accurate reimbursement and respond to the changing care needs of our communities.

But how confident are you that your data accurately reflects the health of your patients and the treatment you provide them? And what happens if the data is inaccurate?

Firstly, inaccurate data results in problems at a Trust level.

Trusts and their Commissioners use data to report on and analyse Trust performance and reimbursement, the quality of patient care and the effectiveness of patient pathways.

If a Trust’s performance profile has been derived from inaccurate data, the Trust could be inaccurately reporting on risk-adjusted metrics and patient outcomes, directly impacting future provision of Trust services and Trust strategy regarding patient care.

Data inaccuracies also directly impact a Trust’s current and planned financial reimbursement, increasing the risk of the Trust receiving significantly less income for the actual activity that has been performed. In the longer-term, as Commissioners establish activity and financial baselines for future contractual arrangements, Trusts may struggle with service sustainability, operating costs and resourcing as they attempt to deliver care for less.

As the inaccurate data is fed into decision-making further up the chain, at a local level, the impact becomes more significant.

At local care level, activity data and subsequent performance metrics are used to analyse social care requirements and the healthcare needs of the community.

If data is inaccurate, services prioritised within the local economy may not appropriately address the genuine needs of the patient community. Local pathways between primary, secondary and tertiary care may not be suitable, which can affect the decisions regarding where care priorities should lie and affect the subsequent funding, procurement and cessation of local services.

And if that isn’t food for thought, this inaccurate data is currently driving healthcare decisions at a nationwide level and determining the strategic direction of the NHS.

The planning of our national healthcare services is driven by performance statistics where mortality rates and patient comorbidities and complexities are used to draw comparisons and establish benchmarks.

Inaccurate data provides the government with a misleading perception of the current state of health care services and the state of our nation’s health. Quite simply, inaccurate data impedes the government’s ability to set appropriate standards and targets for national care and establish strategic direction to best support the changing population.

So how do you increase your confidence in the accuracy of your data?

The solution is to develop a robust validation process that reviews coded data for accuracy, quality and completeness prior to the data leaving your Trust. This process promptly identifies quality issues, errors and anomalies and allows clinical coding to be corrected prior to data submission deadlines. In addition, implementing a process to validate source documentation ensures information supplied to the clinical coding team is accurate and complete and encourages trust-wide engagement in improving the Trust’s healthcare data.

Introducing timely data and source documentation validation at Trust level supports a process of continuous improvement, ultimately ensuring crucial decisions across the health care economy are being driven by data that genuinely reflects Trust activity and patient health.

After all, “without good data, you are just another person with an opinion.”  W. Edwards Deming.

If you would like some advice on how to improve your confidence in the accuracy of your data, please contact our Healthcare Data experts at / 020 7582 2103.