Over the past three and a half years Mridula Sori and her team have developed a system with evidence-based analysis that allows them to see what improvements need to be made to support hospitals and the wider NHS. The principal analyst at NHS Improvement explained how this happened.
Mridula Sori works for the Centre of Excellence for Analytics of the NHS, also known as the Analytics Hub, carrying out analytics for NHS Improvement (NHSI). NHSI was formed in April 2016 and, since then, it has increased the maturity level of its business intelligence and analytics from borderline unaware and opportunistic to enterprise-level.
That means the organisation is well on its way to being data-driven. Sori said: “We now have consistent information that comes from our central system. We call it the strategic information platform, or SIP, and this is one of the platforms where all the data resides, the single version from where we get all the information.” She added that audit trails of data can now take place which brings transparency to the business, and the SIP holds data sets collected over more than 10 years from various surveys of the NHS.
But this wasn’t always the case. Back in 2014 and 2015, misaligned key performance indicators (KPIs), fragmented systems, inconsistent information, delayed time-to-decision, duplicated and inefficient processes, and a lack of clear roles and responsibilities all led to increased reputational risk. At the time, there were limited users and the hidden costs of silos were just beginning to be documented.
By 2018, those initial issues will have been completely reversed with aligned KPIs, integrated systems, consistent information and so on. This means that NHS will be at enterprise-level maturity with sophisticated programme management, the deployment of an enterprise metrics framework, and with proactive research of new methods and technologies taking place.
Sori explained her role in the analytics hub – with her team of 16 analysts – in making this happen by promoting self-service analytics. “Analytics is for everyone. It is not one team’s job to do. We promote a standardised way of approaching analytics, working closely with different teams at NHSI to make that happen,” she said. The analytics hub also performs an advisory role, advising the entire organisation, in which 250 other analysts work, about how to approach all types of analytics. She added that everybody has access to data marts within SIP through various technology platforms.
Those platforms are SAS, Tableau, Excel Power Query, Simul8, MIST and Alteryx. Sori said that SAS allows for statistical analysis and advanced analytics and modelling, while Excel Power Query allows analysts “who just love Excel” to query information through a familiar add-on. She added that all 250 analysts in the organisation use Alteryx on an everyday basis.
One of the achievements of the Analytics Hub is the Patient Experience Headlines Tool. “We have created a tool using over 30 survey data sets. We processed the data sets in Alteryx and produced output that can be consumed in Tableau and then created a visualiation which is benchmarking against various providers across England,” she explained.
Sori said that, within the Centre of Excellence, various degrees of analytics take place - diagnostic, descriptive, predictive and prescriptive, although there is not a heavy focus on the latter two. However, one year down the line, she would like to start answering predictive questions such as "what can happen?" or "what will happen?" She and her team will then be able to predict how many patients will be admitted to hospital this winter, enabling hospitals to plan how to deploy their resources.
NHS Improvement was created to support NHS Trusts in their efforts to improve their quality of care, operational efficiency and financial management. One of its jobs is to give practical, evidence-based help and advise on how to make services more efficient without eroding quality. For Sori, that is the reason for being of her team. She said: “I think that’s our duty. That’s why we exist.”