Aspen Healthcare

Aspen Healthcare introduces a new quality governance framework with the support of Datix patient safety software

Aspen Highgate
Aspen Highgate

Originally established in 1998, Aspen Healthcare is the operator of four highly regarded private acute hospitals, two cancer centres and three ambulatory day surgery centres.

These are:

  • Cancer Centre London, Wimbledon, SW London
  • The Chelmsford Private Day Surgery Hospital, Chelmsford, Essex
  • The Claremont Hospital, Sheffield
  • The Edinburgh Clinic, Edinburgh
  • Highgate Private Hospital Highgate, N London
  • Holly House Hospital Buckhurst Hill, NE London
  • Midland Eye, Solihull
  • Nova Healthcare, Leeds
  • Parkside Hospital Wimbledon, SW London

The Group’s core business is the management and operation of these private hospitals and other medical facilities, many of which are in joint partnership with Aspen Healthcare Consultants. The organisation has 17 theatres and approximately 250 beds. In 2014, it handled 42,000 admissions, 312,000 outpatient and diagnostic visits and generated revenues of £113 million.

Aspen Healthcare is committed to excellence and works closely with its consultants, patients and commissioners to ensure that the services it delivers result in safe, effective and personalised care for all patients.

Aspen Healthcare’s mission statement underpins the delivery of all its care and services and states, “Our aim is to provide first-class independent healthcare for the local community in a safe, comfortable and welcoming environment; one in which we would be happy to treat our own families.”

Over the years, Aspen Healthcare has established a strong reputation for high quality performance. Its facilities are registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Healthcare Improvement Scotland and are bound by The Health & Social Care Act 2008, which governs all independent hospitals.

Strong focus on quality governance drives investment in new technology

Aspen Healthcare first turned to Datix patient safety software in 2011 for incident reporting. The organisation took the decision to build further upon the use of Datix and step up its investment in the technology when Judi Ingram arrived as Group Clinical Director in late 2012. Ms Ingram created a new Quality Governance Framework designed to promote best-practice processes and really drive continual improvements in patient safety and care underpinned by data and information from Datix.

According to Judi Ingram, “Excellence is at the heart of everything we do and we aim for quality to be incorporated into every level of our business. From the outset, it was clear that maximising the full potential of the Datix system was a key priority. Improving staff awareness and greater understanding of the value and importance of incident reporting was essential. Plus ensuring staff received something back from the Datix ‘box’ in terms of shared learning and improvements to patient care and safety were critical to supporting our new Quality Governance Framework effectively. This would enable us to innovate readily and respond to new initiatives to benefit our patients and ensure the quality and safety of the care they receive.”

Aspen Healthcare has expanded upon the original Datix implementation to include the Incidents module, plus the Safety Alerts, Complaints, Risk Register and Dashboard modules. Information held in the Datix system underpins the organisation’s commitment to quality governance supported by a dedicated Group Quality Governance Committee chaired by Aspen’s Chief Executive. This committee actively monitors information, quality metrics, clinical outcomes and feedback that Aspen Healthcare receives to ensure that services provided to patients, commissioners, staff and other key stakeholders are based on best practice which is responsive to their needs.

Improved incident reporting, dramatic results

In the past, staff were quite suspicious of reporting incidents because they did not understand the importance of their role in promoting a safety culture. To address this, Judi and her team set about raising the overall profile of patient safety and positioning incident reporting as an opportunity to drive improvements in patient safety.

Dedicated training combined with local enhancements to the Datix system, based on feedback from staff, have contributed to significant results as Judi Ingram explained, “Improved incident reporting is one of our key performance indicators (KPIs) helping to focus managers’ minds on promoting an increase in reporting levels month-on-month.

“One key aspect of a safety culture is promoting incident reporting and our results speak for themselves. Improved incident reporting has definitely had a direct and positive impact on patient safety.” Judi Ingram, Group Clinical Director for Aspen Healthcare

The importance of data, data and more data

Aspen Healthcare has adopted a multi-pronged approach to patient safety, combining robust investigation, root cause analysis and human factors training with essential information sourced from Datix.

The organisation also utilises data from the Datix system to produce a patient safety newsletter that helps share the benefits and value of the technology with staff. Next on the horizon is further developing the use of the Datix Dashboards with the aim of every Aspen ward/department using, and importantly having access to, information gathered from many sources. This will help to inform them of how they are doing in terms of safety, effectiveness and patient experience. The dashboards will help to illustrate the benefits to staff in a visual and meaningful way what is happening and they will be able to track progress in their own areas.

Judi Ingram added, “Datix is a valuable central repository of real-time data but it’s what you do with the data and information gleaned that really matters. Information needs to be properly managed, analysed and shared collaboratively to bring it to life. For example, data held in the Datix system is supporting a comprehensive review of our governance procedures and underpins many of our processes. The ability to track our progress against our Quality Governance Framework means we are turning a cultural corner by instilling a greater sense of ownership across the organisation and empowering staff to take personal responsibility for patient safety.”

360 degree view of patient safety to benefit everyone

Aspen Healthcare relies on the information stored in Datix because it provides a reliable picture of patient safety across the organisation. Consistent processes combined with measurable KPIs on Quality Governance dashboards encourages everyone to record patient safety and near miss incidents including such things as pressure ulcers, returns to theatre and cancelled operations. In addition to reporting anything that is a concern to staff which they think needs investigating.

Judi Ingram added, “Patient safety is often seen by staff as ‘a given’ but can also be hard to articulate effectively but using Datix helps with this. It is so much easier than relying on multiple spreadsheets that are so time consuming, often prone to error and are so quickly out of date. With Datix, the information is 100% accessible by everyone and the sheer granularity of the detail provided gives clinicians and managers alike the evidence they need to highlight problem areas quickly and then take swift, corrective action. This also boosts staff morale, as well as minimising the risk of recurring issues and improves patient safety.”

By way of example, Aspen Healthcare is currently undertaking a project centred around improving patient falls. Data and learning from incidents reported on Datix is providing the facts and statistics necessary to support changes in the way the organisation deals with and minimises the instances of patient slips, trips and falls, particularly those which include any harm to patients. Datix permits the ongoing monitoring of this project and evaluation of whether the changes being made are effective.

Good governance attracts board-level attention

Aspen Healthcare’s focus on excellence in patient safety is reflected in a safety commitment charter that has been signed by the Group CEO and all of its hospitals CEOs. Each year the Aspen CEO, the Director of Human Resources and Judi Ingram also visit every Aspen hospital during a one-week Executive Road Show to present to staff the key messages and initiatives on customer care and patient safety, backed up with real-life examples from information recorded in Datix. They also share lessons learnt from complaints received to spread knowledge and best practice.

As Group Clinical Director, Judi is ultimately accountable for delivering high quality, safe and compassionate care whilst increasing productivity and facilitating clinical engagement across the organisation. She reports directly to the Board and uses the Datix Dashboards module to help identify patient safety trends and hotspots, recommend actions and ensure positive outcomes across the group.

Looking towards a brighter, safer future

With a focus on continual improvement, Aspen Healthcare is always looking for new ways to extend the Datix solution. It is currently implementing the Datix Risk Register module to drive the proactive management of risk and is aiming to further embed the Complaints Management module. The Datix Safety Alerts module is increasingly providing Aspen with the robust oversight required of where they are at any point of time ensuring alerts are actioned.

Probably the most exciting development is bringing the benefits of Datix Dashboards to those in the frontline of patient care delivery. This will enable staff and clinicians, for example to know that when a pressure ulcer occurs on their ward, how long it has been since this last happened and to assess whether their care and interventions are helping to reduce pressure ulcers quickly and efficiently. A new facility of being able to automatically feedback to the member of staff who has reported an incident will also be invaluable, ensuring that those staff members who take the time to report an incident on Datix receive timely and meaningful feedback once it has been investigated by their manager.

Judi Ingram concluded, “I champion Datix wherever I go because it is a real strategic enabler that supports patient safety and effective governance systems and helps our managers and staff to make the right decisions, based on the right information, at the right time. Datix offers the perfect opportunity to help make a real difference to frontline care delivery.”

About Aspen Healthcare

Originally established in 1998, Aspen Healthcare is the operator of four highly regarded private acute hospitals, two cancer centres and three ambulatory day surgery centres. Medical services provided range from outpatient clinics and diagnostic screening to complex surgery and specialised cancer treatments. The organisation has 17 theatres and approximately 250 beds. In 2014, it handled 42,000 admissions, 312,000 outpatient and diagnostic visits and generated revenues of £113 million.

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