Blog: An expert guide on how to look at healthcare data
Primary Care Networks (PCNs) hold some of the richest data in health and care which can tell us a great deal about our local populations and their needs. However, faced with so much data, it can be difficult to know what to look at and what we can do with it to drive improvements in health and care of our population.
Writing for PULSE and Healthcare Leader, David Sgorbati, Chief Analyst for the Health Economics Unit, offered his insight and some examples as to how data analysis is being used to drive improvements to care up and down the country.
Originally published 31 October 2022.
Data is incredibly powerful when it comes to helping us make decisions about changes to care pathways or the allocation of resources and it really is true that PCNs hold the Crown Jewels of NHS data. As the ‘front door’ of the NHS, you have an unrivalled insight into your population, covering everything from consultation data to prescription information and a whole host of secondary care markers. What’s more, you also have a very deep and profound understanding of your community and its needs. For this reason, it’s vital that you are involved in shaping any collection and analysis of your local data.
What’s the right question?
One of the most crucial elements to get right when starting any data analysis project is choosing the right question. That might sound obvious, but it can be challenging to ensure the question we’re asking will give us the answers we are looking for. For example, we might say we want to understand how many patients are attending A&E each month. However, the answer we are looking for here might really be what proportion of patients attend A&E, or what the characteristics are of those patients who attend A&E, or even why patients are attending A&E, so we can understand if there are any trends or unexpected variations in the type of patients we find.
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