An old folk tale about health and social care data

Author Mark Rogers

26 February 2018

Mark Rogers, Customer Software Projects Lead

Many of the stories that were read to me as a youngster had meaning or morals. One that resonates with me now as I work with health and social care data is Stone Soup: an old folk story about a traveller who convinces the inhabitants of a village that he can make soup from a single stone.

Of course, he can't. But what he facilitates is the bringing together of whatever the individual villagers have, to make a single, rich source of nourishment for all the villagers to share and enjoy.

The parallel to health and social care data is, most probably, an obvious one: the different data sets created and held by a vast variety of organisations is more powerful when it is combined and shared – the sum being greater than the individual parts.

Take an example from social care teams creating hugely rich data sets from using a resource allocation system (RAS) to estimate personal budgets. Through its use, all kinds of data are collected about people's health and social care needs, including:

  • the level of support needed to keep an individual safe;
  • a person’s independence, such as how much a family member or friend helps around the home;
  • the estimated personal budget and a breakdown of hours; and
  • eligibility summaries and predictions.

What to do now with your RAS data

Returning to the stone soup analogy, the first thing you need is something to make the soup in. Many of our customers are now using analytics software to help them learn about their local population. They then make decisions based on the real-time data that they're able to access.

Some of my customers who use our RAS have benefited by using our analytics tools because it puts the data back into their hands. Even more importantly, it puts it in the hands of those who can act upon the insights without having to repeatedly request reports and extracts from informatics or database specialists.

Getting meaningful insights

Over the last 21 months, our 'RAS Analytics' database has amassed over 200,000 cases. It comprises of assessments of those in Adult Social Care, Continuing Healthcare, Carers and Children's Health, Social Care and Education.

Just some of the benefits these insights can bring:

  • Children's social care services can monitor the levels of independence. For example, over time, you may see higher levels of independence in personal care activities as children move towards adulthood.
  • Local authorities can identify family members, friends and carers who are at risk of harm from those they care for. These cases can be prioritised and monitored more closely so that they do not result in a situation breaking down.
  • Local authorities can also get insights into unpaid carers. Currently, the data from our RAS suggests that unpaid carers may contribute an average of over £280 per week to the care of each adult with needs. Supporting these people makes financial sense.
  • Services can easily see the difference between the RAS's estimated personal budget and the actual amount planned for a person's support. The RAS can then be 'calibrated' to be more accurate if any differences are spotted. Just the addition of this figure into the data set can be the beginning of a learning care system, where continual improvement is part of the paradigm.

Joining the data

By using our analytics software, Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) has joined its RAS data set with its commissioned services and financial data, creating an end-to-end view of the social care pathway.

One of the primary benefits of doing this means that they can now measure and benchmark their pathway data. So by bringing their case management system data into our analytics platform, they can now measure how long it takes for things to pass through their system, from the point of assessment to the point of service commencement.

Since working with the team at GCC, I've seen a genuine passion for joining up the data. The Interim Assistant Director of Adult Social Care at Gloucestershire County Council said:

"We have witnessed our social workers', managers' and other practitioners' attitudes towards data transform instantly. Within minutes of logging on, our social care service managers were producing reports with actionable insights into their operations."

So, to end with my tenuous (I admit) analogy

Most people in the sector know that joining data sets and democratising access can reap great rewards from the insights; in very much the same way the individual members of the village know that the stone soup will be better with more hearty ingredients. It only takes one person's vision and dedication to bring the village together.