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Sydney Local Health District Improves Treatment of Back Pain Using Qlik-powered App

Data Analytics Enables Healthcare Practitioners to Reduce Opioid Use and Improve Effectiveness of Lower Back Pain Treatment in New South Wales

August 13, 2019

Sydney, Australia – Qlik today announced Sydney Local Health District (SLHD) has utilized the Qlik platform to power its award-winning STARS (Sydney Local Health District Targeted Activity and Reporting System) Back Pain App. The app enables healthcare professionals to treat lower back pain by delivering meaningful data to the frontline.

It is estimated that 540 million people worldwide are affected by back pain at any one time, while in Australia more than 3.7 million people experienced this type of pain. A study by Monash University indicated that back pain reduces Australia’s GDP by $3.2 billion a year. Within NSW alone, emergency departments (ED) see 50,000 patients for back pain annually. Of these patients, 70 percent are given opioids despite known harms, 30 percent receive unnecessary imaging, and 17 percent are admitted to hospital. These practices are discordant with guideline recommendations.

The STARS Back Pain App provides ED clinicians with key information relevant to the management of lower back pain, whilst also efficiently providing a mechanism to identify and explore any clinical variation. The app is driving positive changes in clinical practice through audit and continuous feedback, helping to avoid the inappropriate use of tests and treatment for lower back pain, which in the past has included the prescription of dangerous opioids.

Benchmarking the Treatment of Lower Back Pain

To create a benchmark, the team set out to collate a strong dataset of existing options for lower back pain management. Standard information such as patients’ demographics, diagnoses, allied health service review, pain medicines used, pathology tests, diagnostic imaging, costs of care and patients’ admission status are all routinely collected in a variety of electronic medical record systems. Where the STARS Back Pain App differentiates itself is its ability to link these previously siloed data sets in a governed, near real-time manner and present the information back to clinicians through an intuitive interface.

“Building this application in Qlik has brought people in our organization together and started some really valuable conversations,” said Dr. Bethan Richards, Director of Rheumatology at RPA Hospital who led a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, researchers and IT specialists to design the STARS Back Pain App. “Through the collaboration of our research team with the clinicians and performance unit, we can now see what part of the intervention worked, what didn't, and what we can change moving forward. One of the best things about this app is that each individual can ask their own questions, interrogate the data, and arrive at conclusions without doing extensive and time-consuming audits.”

Information Sharing to Improve Patient Outcomes

In use across three participating emergency departments across NSW including RPA Hospital, Concord Repatriation General Hospital and Canterbury Hospital, the STARS Back Pain App provides clinicians with a summary of patients with lower back pain while highlighting clinical variations. Through access to the app, healthcare professionals can now compare data across hospitals, which ignites conversations about trends, prescription rates and overall patient care.

“With the type of benchmarking now available, clinicians can see how they're performing against other hospitals,” said Charlie Farah, Director, Healthcare & Public Sector APAC at Qlik. “This leads to changes in behavior without intervention. Healthcare professionals have been empowered to start asking questions on their own and debunk myths they have about their performance: Why are we different? Is it that we're getting sicker patients at this hospital versus another hospital? The data initiates a conversation and starts to create its own momentum.”

Initiating Actionable Change

In addition to having access to the data, the SLHD team knew clinicians needed the tools necessary to act on the information and trends they were identifying. A new model of care for back pain was implemented and educational resources for both doctors and patients were created to help encourage the use of other effective and safe pain management strategies rather than simply using strong opioid medicines. Having access to data also empowered clinicians to provide counsel to their patients on possible treatments and recovery timelines, thus enabling them to make more informed decisions.

“Data can be used for evidence-based management of back pain, which means we can ensure our patients are receiving the best care possible,” said Dr. Gustavo Machado, Research Fellow at the Institute for Musculoskeletal Health’s NHMRC who led the emergency department trial of the app. “In addition, clinicians are more likely to use the platform because it gives them a view on their own real-world data. The data is in front of them and ready to be leveraged. The app has already changed the way clinicians in our trial are treating patients.”

Building on the success of the STARS Back Pain app, SLHD is currently working with the NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation on rolling it out across all NSW emergency departments and has commenced work with Monash University to begin a similar project in Victoria. Moving forward, the District is also looking at other ways to extend the use of technology and analytics outside of back pain to other areas of clinical practice which could benefit from such analytics and insights.

About Sydney Local Health District

Sydney Local Health District is responsible for providing health care services to more than 700,000 people living in the centre and inner west of Sydney and beyond. The District is home to RPA, Concord, Canterbury, Balmain and Sydney Dental Hospitals as well as a range of integrated healthcare services in our community including community health, mental health, drug health and aged care services.

Sydney Local Health District is committed to achieving excellence in health and healthcare for all. The District’s patient and family centred approach is reflected through its staff and services. The District is known as a pioneer in healthcare, with world-leading clinicians, researchers and research institutes.

About Qlik

Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, one where everyone can use data to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. Only Qlik offers end-to-end, real-time data integration and analytics solutions that help organizations access and transform all their data into value. Qlik helps companies lead with data to see more deeply into customer behavior, reinvent business processes, discover additional revenue streams, and balance risk and reward. Qlik does business in more than 100 countries and serves over 50,000 customers around the world.

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