In this new information age there are many changes occurring already that will affect both the delivery of healthcare and the way patients interact within the healthcare system. Management software (dashboards) and patient feedback are two ways in which these changes are occurring. Dashboards are used in all types of management information systems and are designed to offer the user a quick and easy way to access tools and information. These tools are being implemented at both the patient/consumer level as well as at the hospital and health system level.
Why is this important to you?
Why does this matter for the healthcare consumer? The answer is in the question. More and more, patients are becoming consumers of healthcare services. There are a myriad of physician scoring websites that rate doctors and their staff based on the “consumer experience.” My recommendation is to be cognizant of the meaning behind the numbers when using these sites. Learn how to interact with these sites in an informed way. If you add to these sites, remaining objective is important. Emotionally driven rants do not help the physician or the staff improve. Sharing this information in a responsible way, with the physician’s office, will improve the delivery of your care in the future, for you and for others. In this way, you have the power to create less superfluous and meaningless information.
How do dashboards work?
An old business adage has been rephrased as Pearson’s Law: “That which is measure improves. That which is measured and reported improves exponentially.”1 Similar to a dashboard in a car, much of the information is at the user’s fingertips. With this available information, leaders can then make decisions to improve the process.
Types of Dashboards
As mentioned above, more and more patients are able to find healthcare ratings of the physicians they want to see. Will this be good for medical consumerism? Yes. Will it truly portray that your chosen physician is the best choice, the best choice for you? Absolutely not. There are truly too many factors involved. If the website information is generated by metrics within the healthcare system, it is possible that the numbers do not tell the whole story. An example may explain this better. Take a very successful foot and ankle surgeon who is operating on very sick patients, those with diabetes, coronary and peripheral vascular disease, smokers, those with kidney disease, etc. In their attempts to preserve the limb with very advanced techniques, there are higher rates of wound complications or nonunion of joint fusions, simply because the building materials are of poor quality, not because the doctor is less qualified or skilled.
Hospitals and healthcare organizations are able to capture information about how their hospitals are functioning on a daily basis. In a manner of speaking, the dashboard allows management and staff to know how they are performing at reaching their goals. Depending on the clinical scenario, research has demonstrated key treatments and interventions that will lead to both better outcomes for the patient, cost saving measures for the hospital. These “key performance indicators” are goals that this instrument can monitor. Since measurement can greatly improve performance, it is exciting to see these changes as they continue to shape the way we treat the human body!
For more on this fascinating topic, I would suggest searching Atul Gawande, MD, surgeon, author, Harvard professor, has spoken and written on this subject on many occasions, including TED talk, Checklist Manifesto.