Data quality in the evolving digitised health service

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McKernan, Joye
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University College Cork
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Background/Objective: The research undertaken for this thesis focussed on data quality in the evolving digitised health service. In Ireland we all need to have our details on an electronic healthcare record. We need to have fully integrated systems documenting our health information across our whole life. We as patients need to be central to our care and have access to our data. EHRs can change healthcare by saving money, improving communication, and reducing errors. The introduction of an EHR is a substantial change management project that needs to include all stakeholders to ensure success. It requires vision, dedication, time, and patience. The power and importance of data cannot be overemphasised; we need to analyse what is required from data, using robust standard approaches, and ensure data is of high quality so that it can be used to improve patient outcomes and improve staff working conditions. The aim of this research project was to focus on aspects of digitisation that go towards achieving a high-quality data repository. We aimed to investigate the development and use of an EHR in the Irish healthcare system with specific consideration to the elements that impact data quality. We examined the experiences of the development team, patients, staff, service culture and the data collected. Methods: We used both quantitative and qualitative methods; this mixed method approach allowed for a deeper understanding of the issues. A document analysis of the closure report of the implementation of the EHR (MN-CMS) from the national project team was supported with discussions with team members. Patients at antenatal booking visits in an Irish maternity unit were invited to participate and complete a survey with respect to digitization of their health data. The survey was divided into three distinctive sections; participant information, regarding the staff encounters on their visits and questions about the new system. To engage with staff a pre- EHR implementation survey, a post EHR implementation survey and a post-implementation EHR documentation audit was carried out. A four-step approach was required when applying a national framework to a national data set. The four steps included a literature review, using elements of a data quality framework to develop the planning of an audit tool, data quality assessment of the Major Obstetric Haemorrhage (MOH) audit dataset. The fourth step assessed the data quality using the five dimensions of quality: (1) relevance, (2) accuracy and reliability, (3) timeliness and punctuality, (4) coherence and comparability, and (5) accessibility and clarity. To explore data quality in an EHR two phases were used; initially we examined the data from year 1 (2018); following analysis of the data set we found data quality issues. We then enacted an intervention and assessed the effect of a new data quality process. The intervention was to introduce a data quality resource to assess the datapoints within 1-2 days after documentation of the care by the healthcare professional. We assessed clinical data extracted from the MN-CMS national database for missing data and then examined the significance of the data issues. An ethnographic study approach was used to explore service culture around shift clinical handover, the process was divided into three components: an observational study, a short staff survey and a cause-and-effect assessment. Results: This project showed that several factors, need to be explored to fully understand data quality in healthcare. There is a growing need for high quality clinical ‘Big Data’ to measure, enhance and evaluate healthcare; clinical data systems need to be producing high quality complete and accurate data for primary and secondary use. Patients want to have access to their records and want to engage with healthcare professionals in their care. This engagement will lead to patients having more control over their health outcomes. EHRs are now becoming more and more widespread globally; in Ireland the Maternal & Newborn Clinical Management System (MN-CMS) has been implemented for four maternity units and is a pathfinder EHR project. It is a clinically led, patient centred EHR. Staff engagement is required for the implementation phase; they are a vital component to ensure a successful implementation. Staff may require additional training to ensure their documentation positively impacts data quality. There is a requirement to standardise terminology in relation to data quality and use data quality frameworks to assess the dimension of data quality. It is meaningful and useful to apply national data quality frameworks to data sets to investigate where improvements may be made. Capturing and ensuring quality data from an EHR takes time and resources; the data needs to be examined for accuracy and completeness. Resources in the form of staff are required to achieve this impact on data quality. They can improve data directly and more importantly they can engage with staff regarding their documentation, identify need for further training, technical solution changes and indeed review of data points and the value of recording them. Following the implementation of an EHR, workflows and practices might not change when they should have; it is important to explore why these changes may not occur and address the issues to identify the barriers and allow enablers to achieve appropriate change, engaging with staff in the process. Conclusion: This project aimed to explore the impacts of digitizing healthcare documentation on the quality of that data, examining the impact through patients, staff, and processes. This thesis has shown a need to move towards standardised terminology and methodologies to achieve these goals and the projects involved took a practical solutions approach. We have shown the importance of staff members and their role in the success of the project implementation. We have highlighted the importance of the use of frameworks to robustly assess data quality. There is growing literature regarding EHRs and data quality with the rapid expansion in digitization of healthcare data. This thesis adds to that literature, but significantly more work is needed in the areas of standardisation of data quality frameworks, the importance of staff in data quality, and co-designed patient portals.
Electronic health records , EHR development , EHR planning , EHR Implementation
McKernan, J. 2021. Data quality in the evolving digitised health service. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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