How data analytics is transforming Royal Melbourne Hospital
Harnessing data for a more efficient healthcare system must be balanced with the need to respect patient privacy, says Dr Christine Kilpatrick.
The Royal Melbourne Hospital CEO is one of the keynote speakers at this year's Melbourne Business Analytics Conference on 11 October, where she will talk about the opportunities and challenges of incorporating better data management into hospital operations.
Dr Christine Kilpatrick says greater availability of data is transforming the way healthcare systems operate, paving the way for hospitals to create a more efficient, "command-centre like" approach to healthcare.
"It's a little bit like Australia Post where they know where the letters and parcels are at any one time and what’s holding them up. In our case, we need to know every patient in the hospital, what they are waiting for," she says.
"Often, they're waiting for a consultation for another doctor to come and see them. They might be waiting to go to theatre. They might be waiting for an MRI or a blood test — the list goes on."
In such scenarios, Dr Kilpatrick says data analytics can be used to create a dashboard that provides an overview of which stage all patients are at and what they're waiting for, in turn expediting the process. Understanding this interaction allows hospitals to do more with the same level of resources.
Coping with increased demand
The need to do more with less became more apparent after the COVID-19 pandemic caused demand for healthcare to outpace supply.
"Any other business would love that, but not us," Dr Kilpatrick says.
"Now we’re trying to create reforms that would allow us to use the resources we had to see more patients than we normally would be able to.
"Doing more with the same finite resources without compromising the quality of care requires adapting your culture and having the data to know what’s going on."
At the Melbourne Business Analytics Conference, Dr Kilpatrick will explain how data can play a role throughout this process by helping administrators understand the “progression of care and make sure people are moving through the system as efficiently as they can".
"So, if you've got people looking at all the dashboard, looking at all the patients, then you can expedite which procedure needs to happen so they can keep moving through."
"We will know in real time how many ambulances are out on the road, how many patients you have, how many waiting to go, and so on. So, you can use that to have a better understanding of your needs and what we need to do across Victoria."
Protecting patient privacy
However, a data-driven healthcare system also presents its own set of challenges. For one, it must operate without compromising privacy, Dr Kilpatrick says.
While privacy is important, she says curtailing greater use of data in the name of privacy would be like "throwing out the baby with the bathwater".
For now, operators are still working to find the balance between maximising data for a more efficient healthcare system while respecting patient privacy.
"Privacy must be preserved. And I think that is causing some difficulties in connecting all our systems together."
At some point, Dr Kilpatrick believes legislation can play a crucial role in finding the right balance, with business leaders leading the way in promoting a privacy-centric, data-driven culture.
"I think the business leaders can lead by example – and they do. But they can also influence government policy because our health system, the backbone of our health system, is the public sector."
To hear more from Dr Kilpatrick, see the full list of speakers and register to attend, visit the Melbourne Business Analytics Conference webpage.
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