Supporting health care systems to reduce variation and nurture a learning culture

As health care organisations transition to health care systems delivering services across a geographical footprint, there is a wealth of opportunities for library and knowledge services to support and enhance evidence-based care.

A 2017 study, despite being published a while back, demonstrates the enormity of the challenge facing the NHS of ensuring that all patients receive high quality, evidence based care. It’s a useful study for us as library and knowledge professionals to be aware of, highlighting as it does the level of variation and reasons why our expertise in mobilising knowledge is such an important contribution to the delivery of high quality health care.

Willis et al (2017) explored the variations in achievement of evidence-based, high-impact quality indicators in general practice. Seven high impact quality indicators were developed for primary care and the variation in achieving these indicators was measured across GP practices in West Yorkshire. Four indicators focused on processes of care (e.g. prescribing or testing) and three on clinical outcomes (blood pressure, cholesterol and glycaemic control).

Two key findings in the study are of particular interest.

1) The performance of GP practices in achieving quality indicators.

Achievement of the seven evidence based quality indicators across participating GP practices was as follows:

  1. Diabetes processes of care: 59.1%
  2. Risky prescribing: 8.7% (a low percentage indicates safer, more desirable practice)
  3. Anticoagulation in atrial fibrillation and risk of stroke: 63.0%
  4. Secondary prevention of myocardial infarction: 54.6%
  5. Diabetes control: 43.2%
  6. Blood pressure control in hypertension: 71.7%
  7. Blood pressure control in chronic kidney disease: 74.2%

These differences against quality indicators are perhaps expected, and demonstrate that some GP practices are struggling to achieve evidence-based practice in key areas of patient care.

2) A marked variation in performance between practices

The second key finding of interest to us is that the likelihood of receiving evidence-based treatment varied substantially as a consequence of the practice attended. Even accounting for contributing factors (such as the age profile of patients), the study found considerable variation in achievement of the seven quality indicators between GP practices.

What can we draw from this? It highlights that there are likely to be several contributing factors at play that prevent evidence-based recommendations from being implemented. According to the authors, this is likely to be due to differences in culture and behaviours:

“The odds of patients receiving recommended care or achieving recommended treatment targets varied between two- and over ten-fold by indicator according to the practice attended. These marked variations were partly explained by a range of routinely available practice and patient variables; it is likely that much variation is related to clinical and organisational behaviours.” (p11)

Library and Knowledge Services can play an active part in enhancing clinical and organisational information behaviours in health care systems. This may be through ensuring easy and timely access to the evidence base, equipping health care staff with skills in information searching and critical thinking, or embedding optimal knowledge management behaviours to encourage a learning culture. Accordingly, our contribution to organisational culture and behaviours can support health care systems to reduce unwarranted variation and improve the quality of care.

As knowledge specialists working in health, we are keenly aware that there is a gap between evidence and everyday practice, but perhaps most people attending an appointment at their local practice isn’t?

Reflecting on the findings of this study presents some interesting challenges to us as a profession. Firstly, as our perspective shifts towards supporting the knowledge requirements of health care systems, how can we work more effectively together to help the NHS tackle unwarranted variation in treatment? Secondly, knowledge management is more than simply disseminating evidence across our networks. How can we use our skills to influence behaviour, and how far should our role extend into embedding evidence into practice? Finally, library and Knowledge Services have a role in ensuring citizens are supported to self-manage their conditions effectively and are empowered them with knowledge. How can we do that most effectively?

Please share your thoughts on the issues discussed here, and if you have any interesting studies on this topic please share them too!

Victoria Treadway, Knowledge Management Facilitator, NHS RightCare Email: victoria.treadway@nhs.net Twitter: @librarianpocket

References

Willis, Thomas A, West, Robert, Rushforth, Bruno et al. (5 more authors) (2017) Variations in achievement of evidence-based, high-impact quality indicators in general practice : An observational study. PLoS ONE. e0177949. ISSN 1932-6203 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0177949

Health Information Week 2019 – Monday 1 – Sunday 7 July 2019

Post Updated 19 June 2019

Helping patients and the public find high quality health information!

Health Information Week is a national, multi-sector campaign to promote high quality information for patients and the public. High quality health information can have a huge impact on people’s ability to stay healthy and manage illnesses effectively, giving them a better quality of life.

Preparing for Health Information Week 2019 (1st- 7th July 2019)

We’re excited to announce that the Health Information Week 2019 (#HIW2019) themes are:

  • Monday 1st July: Healthy lifestyles
  • Tuesday 2nd July: Mental health; and patient stories
  • Wednesday 3rd July: Health and digital literacy
  • Thursday 4th July: Long term conditions; and social prescribing
  • Friday 5th July: Innovations for preventing illness
  • Saturday 6th July: Patient stories
  • Sunday 7th July: Mindfulness and relaxation

You may want to use all the themes at once, or focus on a couple – whatever works for you! The national #HIW2019 team will suggest information resources for each theme in advance, and will Tweet them on the day using #HIW2019

If you are a patient information provider, or work in a public library, NHS library, or any other organisation with an interest in high quality health information for patients, you can start planning now. #HIW2019 is a great opportunity to work with colleagues in and outside your organisation. It’s part of public libraries’ Universal Health Offer, and the Patient and Public Information strand of the NHS Knowledge for Healthcare Framework. Think about:

  • Who might want to work with you from your organisation? For example, public health (local councils); PALS, patient information, Trust membership teams (NHS organisations); or anybody else with an interest. Why not contact them about working together for #HIW2019?
  • What other organisations might like to work with you? For example, NHS libraries, public libraries, health charities, hospices, medical writers, key influencers on the themes above or anybody else working with patients locally. Why not contact them about working together for #HIW2019?
  • What impact do you want your involvement in #HIW2019 to have? As always, we’ll evaluate #HIW2019 afterwards, to make #HIW2020 even bigger and better. Impacts in previous years have included:
    • raising awareness of specific resources such as local support groups, Books on Prescription, or the NHS website
    • helping individuals with their health information queries
    • motivating and enthusing people to look for high quality health information
  • Why not follow @Healthinfoweek on Twitter? We’re planning to crowdspeak to make an impact on social media – look out for more information on getting involved.

If you have any questions now, contact the #HIW2019 team on: healthinfoweek@gmail.com

Making the most of #AMillionDecisions

Focusing on #AMillionDecisions, our joint ongoing initiative, Sue Lacey Bryant, and Louise Goswami from Health Education England met with Sarah Hennessy and Imrana Ghumra, the co-chairs of CILIP Health Libraries Group on the 4th March 2019.

As we reported back in June, at 70 for #NHS70, #AMillionDecisionshas been successful at raising our profile. The campaign has:

  • changed outdated perceptions
  • articulated to employers that our role is business critical
  • opened doors to senior decision makers
  • expressed a common purpose that all librarians can get behind
  • improved our skills as advocates
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So what can you do?

As previously reported we have seen amazing promotional work around the country. There is a lot you can continue to do at a local level to use #AMillionDecisions to promote the impact of your service:

  1. Collect endorsements from your own leaders and local champions.
    Use the social card template and, with their permission, display prominently across your organisations and on social media
  2. Continue to collect examples of your impact and submit your case studies to the Knowledge for Healthcare Blog. Use the impact case study vignette template to create your own vignettes and remember to publicise them using #AMillionDecisions – you may also like to include the following #HEELKS @CILIPinfo @CILIPHLG @NHS_HealthEdEng
  3. Continue to use the hashtag in your social media posts
  4. Check your #AMillionDecisions e-mail signature is still working. You may wish to add the additional text: Librarians and knowledge specialists bring the evidence to inform over a million decisions a day across healthcare
  5. Share key messages from the initiative within your organisations, visit the For Employers page for further information

For further information please contact your regional library lead.