Sydney healthcare clinicians turn to data analytics to improve back pain treatments

In a move to reduce opioid prescriptions, Sydney Local Health District has developed an app with Qlik to help treat lower back pain.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Sydney Local Health District (SLHD) has developed an app using data analytics to help healthcare professionals in New South Wales treat lower back pain.

The SLHD targeted activity and reporting system (STARS) app, which has been developed using Qlik's data intelligence platform, provides clinicians with key information to develop personalised back pain management for patients, and allows them to identify alternative clinical treatments, rather than simply rely on prescriptions of opioid medicine, for instance.

"We know back pain is incredibly prevalent. In New South Wales alone, we have over 50,000 episodes of back pain coming into our emergency department. We know from our literature and clinical practice that there seems to be a high rate of opioid use, and that was a concern for us…so we thought if we bring the right people together we could do something on a big scale," said director of Rheumatology at RPA Hospital, Bethan Richards, who also lead the design of the STARS back pain app.  

Six-month clinical trials of the app were carried out at emergency departments at RPA Hospital, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, Canterbury Hospital, and Dubbo Base Hospital that gave clinicians access to real-time datasets that were previously siloed. This included patients' demographics, diagnoses, pathology tests, diagnostic imaging, costs of care, and patients' admission status.

See also: Why 70% of healthcare orgs have suffered data breaches (TechRepublic)

In addition to having access to the data, a new model of care for back pain was implemented as part of the trial, and educational resources for both doctors and patients were created to help encourage the use of the app.

Richards said SLHD is now working with the NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation to roll out the app across all NSW emergency departments, adding work has commenced with Monash University to begin a similar project in Victoria.

Moving forward, the SLHD is looking at other ways to extend the use of technology and analytics outside of back pain such as for fracture and osteoarthritis treatments.

"What this technology allows us to do is collect baseline data, feed in intervention, and change clinician practice, and allow us to embed low cost research into normal clinical practice and that's helping us drive best care," Richards said.

"It's a win for researchers, a win for clinicians, it's a win for patients who are getting best care, and it's a win for a health system because the vast amount of money we can save by reducing admissions."

In a separate announcement, the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) said it worked with Taysols to upgrade its corporate information warehouse, as part of a wider project to implement a new case management system, ChildStory.

"Access to better data and insights is an essential component of the ChildStory program, making the CIW mission-critical for FACS," Taysols founder and director Mark Taylor said.

"The strong working relationship between Taysols and FACS is a crucial element of this project's success. With Taysols' focus on delivering high-quality outcomes, we've been able to help FACS evolve their team on the ground with ongoing support along with system analysis, development, testing and deployment." 

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