In the world of healthcare where science, research and evidence reign supreme, it can oftentimes be difficult to serve as a Patient Advocate. Often seen by even the most ardent supporters as a “soft” department, the use of data can be the catalyst that brings the work of Patient Advocacy to the leaders’ attention and thus a seat at the coveted “adult table.”
The truth is, Patient Advocates live by regulations and data: the Joint Commission, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the Departments for Public Health; all of these agencies regulate the work of the advocate. The documentation of an advocate is crucial, and therein lies a wealth of data. Here is how data positively impacted one Patient Advocacy team and got the attention of leadership.
Having recently switched to a new data system and hired a Business Analyst, Augusta University Health’s Patient Advocacy Department went to work sorting through the mounds of data they had collected for years. Data that had never been seen by leadership was now being compiled and trended through charts and concise reports. Themes and trends were now laid bare, and assumptions were challenged. Things that were presumed to be an issue were not, and projects and processes that were thought to be seamless revealed cracks. After analyzing and sharing the data, a significant issue was clear: medication refills in the medical practices were an issue. In addition, clinic call backs were a problem. After reviewing the issue using complaint data, the leadership went to work on establishing a Patient Services call center, a large portion of which was dedicated to managing prescription refills. Since making that change, the category of complaints related to prescription refills has all but disappeared. The solution got the attention of Quality leadership, physicians now had more time for patient care and the organization at large saw the improvement as a win. Without the data from the Patient Advocacy team, this would not have happened.
Call to Action: Work on using your Patient Advocacy data in new ways. Follow this three-phase plan to elevate the importance of data in your organization.
Phase I: Get the data out there
Start sharing data as soon as possible. Create basic reports that give an idea of what is happening in the organization. Grievance data is already required, so add compliment data or perhaps quick and easy reports on top categories or high impact areas like Emergency Departments. Once people begin seeing that data is available, they will begin wanting more and asking for other information. Oftentimes, when people ask for reports, it becomes clearer HOW to report it.
Phase II: Analyze the data at a high level
Look for trends. Even if the organization does not have an analyst available, look at the top three categories and then dive into those. What are the top communication issues? Where are they happening? Report out on these trends at Quality Councils and call attention to any issues that impact patient safety.
Phase III: Tell a bigger story with more data
Mine the data for the gold that is right in front of you. When issues arise or are reported out in areas such as Quality Councils, go to the data to see if it supports the issue or reveals insights. Review data side by side with HCAHPS, survey comments and employee engagement data. Data tells a story, and no story is more compelling than the data built upon the voice of the patient.
Regina M. Winters
Manager, Patient Experience
Center for Patients and Families
Augusta University Medical Center