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Scaling success with EasySPC: A strategic approach to performance reporting in healthcare

Posted 8th April 2024

In the dynamic and rapidly evolving landscape of healthcare, the need for efficient performance reporting is critical. If healthcare organisations are to be able to respond to issues quickly and improve processes effectively in what is often a complex and fast-paced environment, they need reliable tools that provide rigorous analysis and failsafe monitoring.

In this blog, we look at the significance of Statistical Process Control (SPC) in healthcare settings and highlight how EasySPC has the power to transform healthcare provision by optimising performance reporting processes and supporting quick, insights-based decision-making…

The need for SPC in healthcare

The need for continuous improvement in healthcare settings has long been recognised as an important contributor to positive patient outcomes – it’s why the Institute for Healthcare Improvement exists, and why so many NHS trusts are committed to working alongside it.

What’s often less widely agreed upon is how senior leaders and boards can best achieve continual quality improvements, particularly when it comes to leveraging data and measurements to make informed, insights-based decisions.

In the majority of healthcare organisations, Red, Amber, Green (RAG) reports are the go-to method of data visualisation. At their basest level, a quick glance at a RAG chart will highlight where targets are being met (Green on the chart) and where performance needs to be improved and interventions made (Red). In most cases, decision-making and resources will be directed to the ‘failing’ Red areas, while the Green areas are considered to be doing well.

But matters are rarely so straightforward, and RAG charts, while they offer a simplified overview of performance, fall short in terms of providing actionable insights. They can be difficult to interpret correctly, and they fail to take into account trends over time that can indicate a worsening issue or deterioration in outcomes. Primarily, they fail to address underlying process variations.

Statistical Process Control (SPC) plots data over time and standardises visualisation, enabling organisations to better understand normal versus abnormal variations so they can improve processes systematically. In healthcare settings, where precision and reliability of data are paramount, SPC charts can play a pivotal role in helping leaders identify trends and variations, detect anomalies, and make improvements to ensure consistent quality of care across patient pathways.

One healthcare organisation that is committed to making continual quality improvements is Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio. A leading provider of paediatric care and research in the United States, Cincinnati Children’s had long recognised the power of measurements, but had struggled to find a way of collating and presenting masses of data that not only made immediate sense to clinical leaders, but was easily shareable.

‘Data for data’s sake is just a bunch of bits and bytes, and not helping anyone care for patients in the way we want to,’ said Blair Davis, Director of Decision Science at the children’s hospital.

What the organisation wanted to know, she said, was: ‘How do we decode this? How do we pull it apart? How do we put all of this to use? How do we take talented team members and well-intentioned team members and support them in day-to-day improvement and helping the patients that come through our door every single day?’

For Cincinnati, measurements of improvement had never been the issue; they collect data about every process, both point-in-time and over time.

‘For patient populations, clinics or other groups, we don’t use a single measure… There are so many, and the number can get very large, very quickly…

The organisation breaks this down into four areas: Outcomes, Process, Balancing and All or None.

‘Some of the outcomes we might use are, is the patient able to keep their diabetes in control? Or some of the things that might be more important to the patients themselves are “How many days am I able to go to school?”

‘And don’t forget your balancing measures either, because sometimes when we optimise part of the system, it causes chaos in other pieces of the system. So understanding, if we’re really trying to do timely discharges of patients and trying to get patients through our system, are we causing more stress on readmissions? Are we seeing more patients needing to come back to the emergency services?’

For Blair, data that doesn’t tell a cohesive story isn’t worth having. But in a fast-paced clinical setting, data needs to tell a crystal-clear story, and quickly.

One question the center asks in its model for improvement is, ‘How will we know that a change is an improvement?’ and, as Blair explained, this is where the need for SPC comes in.

‘At Cincinnati Children’s, we didn’t have a standard visualisation tool,’ she said. ‘There were a lot of workarounds because of the limitations of our homegrown tool… We had multiple visualisations and they’re not good at SPC.’

Statistical Process Control, Blair understood, could deliver value in enhancing patient outcomes, reducing errors, and telling a complete story to drive ongoing operational improvements.


Going beyond siloed reporting: The case for organisation-wide SPC

While SPC charts have traditionally been used to measure progress on individual projects or processes, their true potential lies in organisation-wide adoption. Siloed reporting initiatives almost always fail to take into account the interconnectedness of departments and functions, yet departments, functions and even clinics within healthcare organisations very rarely operate independently of one another.

Embracing a holistic approach to SPC and embedding it across the entire organisation can not only give healthcare leaders and boards a more comprehensive understanding of their overall operations, importantly it can also ensure those working on the frontlines of provision, delivering medical care and interventions, are better able to see the full picture for each patient.

For their part, managers in organisations where SPC is embedded throughout are better able to identify cross-functional dependencies, spot interdepartmental issues with care pathways or referrals, and drive collaborative efforts towards continuous improvement not only in management and resource provision, but overall care delivery and patient outcomes.

Embedding SPC across the organisation can help foster a culture of data-driven decision-making, empowering frontline staff, clinicians and administrators alike to proactively address performance issues, deepen collaboration and strive to find innovative solutions to cross-functional issues. By breaking down silos and inspiring collaboration, organisation-wide SPC can help healthcare providers drive transformative change and improve patient care standards across the board.


EasySPC: Your tool in scaling SPC

At BCN Healthcare, we understand the challenges facing healthcare organisations, as well as how difficult it can be for leaders to facilitate the widespread rolling out of SPC methodologies. But we also know how much healthcare organisations rely on good data and process measurements to enact ongoing improvements and deliver optimal patient outcomes.

The need for scalable, simplified and insightful data visualisation was one of the main reasons we at BCN developed the EasySPC tool.

We designed and built EasySPC to work seamlessly within the Microsoft ecosystem, enabling healthcare professionals to leverage user-friendly Power BI-certified charts to monitor and visualise the impact of process changes, with ease and precision. With an intuitive interface, EasySPC requires no additional training, so managers and frontline workers alike can immediately start monitoring process variation, enabling faster identification of issues and more targeted action to smooth processes and operational activities.

EasySPC has also been designed with scalability in mind. We know how valuable SPC can be across healthcare organisations, so developing a tool that is accessible and usable across functions and skill levels was paramount.

At Cincinnati Children’s, EasySPC has revolutionised performance reporting practices.

Not only has it helped streamline data collection and measurement, it has improved process visibility and enhanced decision-making capabilities across the organisation. The result? Enhanced patient outcomes, reduced costs, and tangible support for the culture of continuous improvement that was already ingrained within the organisation.

‘EasySPC is really a useful and simple tool to use,’ said the medical center’s Director of Data Management and Visualisations, Sherry Colliatie.

‘Out of the gate, it’s had a pretty profound impact… What we’ve done initially is… taken some of our organisational domain standing metrics that are of interest to our board, of interest to our executive leadership, and we’ve brought them into a single report – something that we’ve never really achieved fully. We’ve had some enterprise-level reporting, but the ability to share it at scale has always been a bit of a challenge for us here at Cincinnati Children’s, so we’re really looking forward to being able to share these across the organisation – not only with the board, not only with the executive leadership, but really across all of Cincinnati Children’s.’


Performance improvements at all levels

The adoption of SPC represents a paradigm shift in performance reporting within healthcare organisations like Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. By transcending traditional, siloed approaches and embracing organisation-wide SPC, healthcare organisations can unlock new opportunities for improvement, innovation and excellence.

EasySPC is a strategic enabler in this journey towards continual improvement through the adoption of scalable SPC. With its user-friendly interface, endlessly customisable features and robust charting tools, EasySPC equips and empowers healthcare organisations with the tools they need to deliver better outcomes across the board, for patients and executives alike.

Adhering to NHS Improvement and Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) SPC rules, EasySPC ensures compliance and accuracy in data analysis, and more than 20 NHS trusts have embraced it as their go-to statistical process control solution. These organisations are already seeing tangible benefits through harnessing EasySPC in their quality improvement initiatives, using it to identify inefficiencies, visualise variations and make informed decisions at every level of their organisations.

Find out how BCN can support the adoption of SPC across your healthcare organisation

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