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The implications of poor data recording in hospitals

Peter Saunders Peter Saunders

Poor data recording is a fundamental flaw in our NHS hospital system and causes financial strain. It has a ripple effect on NHS trusts, commissioners, providers, regulators, patients and wider society.

Clinical coding teams and inaccurate data are often held responsible. However, coding has become an overarching term to describe all data recording issues within hospitals. But if data is recorded correctly, trusts could save millions annually.

It's not just about coding

The reality is there are numerous causes of poor data recording which impacts the income received by a trust. They include:

  • quality of source documentation
  • how clinical data is captured in the system
  • the way information is processed in the data warehouse
  • how it is finally reported

As Peter says: "Issues around data are unfairly pointed at the clinical coding team when the real issues may be around the accuracy of documentation and recording of data. Significant issues and problems occur across all activity that an NHS trust delivers."

More than just money

It's easy to focus on the financial implications of these issues but these inaccuracies cause far wider damage. Patients and regulators rely on accurate data published by NHS hospitals on their efficiency, performance, quality of their services and eliminating clinical variation.

"Understanding what's wrong with a patient, what care has been delivered, where that care has been delivered and the cost for delivering that care is absolutely essential to move forward to a more integrated healthcare system."

Ultimately we recommend that trusts share the findings of our data quality and coding audits with commissioners and be transparent on all issues irrespective of which side they favour. Overall system sustainability is dependent on ensuring that providers are appropriately reimbursed for the services they provide through contracting models that incentivise innovation and enable services to be managed effectively based on accurate clinical data.

Request to read our report 'Getting the data right first time [ 1316 kb ]' or contact Peter Saunders for more on data accuracy and the NHS.

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