The Importance of Visualising Healthcare Associated Infection Data

Last Updated: Thursday, January 25, 2018 by Fraser Campbell

The Importance of Visualising Healthcare Associated Infection Data





Since 2008 Healthcare Associated Infections have been at the forefront of some of the greatest minds in Scottish Healthcare. This was instigated and spurred on by the introduction of the National Standards for Healthcare Associated Infection (HAI) in March of that year.

With the rise of the MRSA “superbug” being a media focus, coupled with a new strain of flu emerging every couple of years, there is increased pressure on hospitals and healthcare authorities to act on this.

This year has seen the emergence of “Aussi Flu”, which is proving to be a particularly fatal strain of Influenza. As of the beginning of this week (15/01/2018), 120 people across the country have died of flu-related symptoms since early October, compared with 45 in the same period in 2016-17. Plenty of data is being collected and reported, but visualising this data could prove vital for the control of the spread of Healthcare Associated Infections.



Spotting Trends Early Means Stopping Infections Quickly



Epidemiologists analyse data gathered by Healthcare Practises and use this to act preventatively against the spread of disease. A huge part of what they do revolves around identifying trends in public health data and using these to prevent infection spreading. They are ultimately the cornerstone of Public Health, and are the only thing protecting us from the Zombie Apocalypse.

This is of course a joke. No-one can prevent the Zombie Apocalypse.



They are experts at spotting trends through data, but this takes time and a level of experience not normally achievable by those who have not studied statistical analysis extensively.

By visualising the data in graphs, charts and annual comparisons, anyone can spot and act upon emerging trends within the spread of disease.

For example, if the annual data on flu virus occurrences in a population shows a spike at the end of December historically, and this year there is an emerging spike at the end of October, staff at hospital level can begin taking more preventative measure earlier in the year. This could potentially decrease the risk of a more dangerous than normal outbreak and save lives.



DETAILED ANALYSIS MEANS MORE EFFECTIVE RESULTS



When Healthcare data is collected in Excel Spreadsheets or Databases, the pages and pages of numbers make it very difficult to make decisions based on an understanding of the data. By laying it out in a way that is easy to read and understand for anyone, you are most equipped to make the difficult decisions needed to have significant impact on your patients.

At a Hospital level, visualisation of the data gathered by healthcare professionals can help identify in much more detail the sources and paths of infections. By using a good reporting tool, it can even be narrowed down by which ward, room, or even which consultant is contributing more to the spread. Monitoring the data in such a way would normally require intense statistical analysis, and more importantly a lot of time, to come to such conclusions. But when visualising your data using reporting or dashboard software, you are able to refine your criteria in any way. For example, you can click a few buttons and make a graph charting the rate of HAI in two different wards against each other, to get a representative graph showing which is producing the best results in preventing the spread of infection. It is this granular detail that will enable hospitals to meet their targets in reducing the spread of HAIs and make patients and practises as safe as they can be.