data qualityAs any researcher knows, one of the most important things when collecting results or data is to ensure that there is a high level of quality. Naturally, this is to decrease the likelihood that there are any misinterpretations, anomalies or bad results that may impact the outcomes of any investigation into the findings. Sadly, there are some circumstances where data that has been collected may not be as useful or as concise as once hoped; this can be seen at times in self completion questionnaires, where the answers given may not always reliable or relevant. In order to assess the current situation, we’ve sought out insights from some expert writers around the world. Here’s what they had to say on the matter.

High quality data is becoming increasingly important in health and social care

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This article looks into the reliability of the quality of the data when analysed for health and social care purposes. David Downing wrote on behalf of Health-Tech Wire (@HealthTechWire) that one of the main causes of missing or incorrect data entry is human error. This is extremely important because it means that if mistakes by the people that enter the data is one of the biggest causes of low quality, then something can be done about it and the problem can be rectified. As David rightly explains, one of the knock on effects of incorrect data entry could be incorrect or unworthy managing of facilities or staff. It’s one of the many issues we seek to combat with our automated data entry services.

Leading on from David’s views, we’d be interested to see an investigation into how data entry and mistakes could be affecting patient waiting times. David suggests that new-signing patients receive new NHS numbers when they sign up, often without any regard for previous NHS registration numbers, meaning that their medical histories may be unavailable for viewing. As well as impacting clinical diagnosis, this practice will ultimately slow down waiting times and place a higher strain on the NHS resources as doctors must work to repeat work already handled in the past. The improvement of accurate data collection techniques could therefore ensure that new patients provide any existing data about themselves upon registration – a small task that could have a high impact upon data quality, diagnosis and treatment.


BMJ Journal: Public Web Ratings Identify Great Care

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Neil Bacon (@NeilBacon) explains in his article that one of the more innovative, effective ways of gaining data is via an online patient survey that has been completed by a large number of people – something we have experience with ourselves. He explains that this is a great source of quality data because the data is given by people who, themselves, have been patients. In addition to this, they are openly, by their own admission, going online and giving a review of the hospital or clinic that they were a resident of during the period of their illness.

Bacon explains that websites are a cost effective and more direct way of gaining an insight from patients rather than funding massive projects to discover what “we already know is going to go wrong”. It’s a well argued point, as we’d expect from Bacon, though not open to some dispute. As the internet is an open source, the reliability of patients submitting potentially sensitive data about themselves or relatives and the care that they received may be questioned due to privacy concerns. In addition to this, many care recipients may have difficulties in participating in such computer surveys, particularly the elderly or the less able, so this method of surveying could also alienate some. On the other hand however, a large amount of data collected this way would be honest, reliable and relevant, and much more cost-effective to gather. In our experience, online surveys to assess healthcare service provision gather the most effective information when supported by a paper counterpart; a choice of formats and a well-executed plan of approaching patients can help to ensure high quality data.


£120 Million Investment for Research to Improve NHS Services

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The final insight is directly from the Department of Health (@DHGovUK) and it is included because there is a massive relevance of this article in comparison to the others. The article details how the Department of Health has commissioned £120 million for an open competition to increase the services of the NHS. This fits in perfectly with what has been said by the previous writers about data quality – the more accurate the information the NHS can collect, the better its services are likely to be. One of the key things that part of the funding should be used for is to ensure that data collection techniques are used correctly and concisely to ensure that the highest quality of data is obtained.

Jeremy hunt was quoted to have said that “If we can have better tests, better technology and make better use of the skills of NHS staff, we will be in a better position to tackle the changing needs of our population and ensure patients get the care they deserve.”

This means that the NHS are thinking about employing better techniques in order to gain higher quality data, which will ultimately lead to improved NHS services: reduced waiting times, more accurate diagnoses and attentive care. What’s missing from this initial release is to document whether there are any limitations to what the money can be spent on by those that receive it. Ultimately, there will be a final selection of methods and practices that are needed to help improve systems. However, with more freedom in the spending of this budget, more NHS practices would be able to improve their services by seeking out what is relevant to them.

From these article reviews, it is obvious to see that when it comes to data collection, ensuring that the quality is high is extremely important, otherwise variables may be misinterpreted, data wrongly analysed and tests affected by inappropriate anomalies.