Friday, 26 June 2020 11:49

Tasmania Health Services Delivers Real-Time Data with Qlik to Fight Coronavirus

By David Deacon

David Deacon is State Manager, Clinical Financial Analytics Unit (CFA) of the Tasmania Health Service (THS). David shares how THS has incorporated data into its strategy to battle the pandemic.

Tasmania Health Service in Australia has embraced the use of data and analytics to stay ahead of the curve and formulate its response to COVID-19. Over the past 18 months, the Health Service has been developing a suite of near real-time operational focus boards together with key stakeholders, which they were then able to build on when the outbreak occurred.


The Statewide Information Management Operation Node (SIMON) is a centralized informational portal built on Qlik that supports both transactional input and output functions. The portal is alert oriented and provides enough detail to inform effective clinical decision-making, which enhances safe patient flow throughout the hospital.

When the pandemic was declared in March 2020, the COVID-19 Focus Board was created using SIMON and deployed within days at Emergency Command Centers. The emergency dashboard, designed to monitor the status of patients across emergency departments in Tasmania’s four major hospitals, was the first application to launch. Later, other dashboards were created, including those concerning critical care, emergency surgery, ambulance movement, occupancy and admission rates.

Liam Carter, Pharmacy Site Manager at Launceston General Hospital, explains that the SIMON focus boards bring timely information that helps his team “move from what is essentially a reactive, prescription-driven environment, toward a proactive, information-led team approach to pharmacy resource management.” Ultimately, this allows leaders on the ground to deploy and redeploy available resources to target areas of higher demand and therefore assist in patient flow.

Dr Tara Anderson from the Tasmanian Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Service commended the SIMON COVID-19 Focus Board for its efficiency and user-friendliness. The Focus Board provides a state-wide view of the status of THS inpatients in relation to a transmissible pathogen, as well as to those patients meeting Public Health Services quarantine criteria. Because of its value, Dr Anderson identified other areas of applicability to numerous uses within the THS IPC services, including the day-to-day infection prevention and control business, and the THS IPC Surveillance Program.

United by the Language of Data

All this was made possible because THS adopted a holistic approach in dealing with the pandemic by forming the Rapid Response Analytics Team (RRAT). Recognizing that data analytics would be critical in addressing the immediate needs of the healthcare system and that the data would be useful for longer-term analysis, THS activated a cross-functional team that would be able to bring in different viewpoints. The RRAT consisted of members who had skills in nursing, epidemiology, mathematics, statistics, web design, systems and data visualization with the key aim of delivering time-critical strategic advice. It also sought to innovate and come up with evidence-based solutions to support the Health Service during the crisis.

The pandemic is proving to be an opportunity to build trust and break down data barriers. The RRAT’s effectiveness in combating the pandemic shows the need for a collaborative approach across different specialties, united by the language of data.

The Importance of Data Literacy in Healthcare

Data Literacy is critical in developing and building trust in analytics, especially in times of crisis when decisions based on data affects lives. Although there are certainly barriers to adopting data literacy into an organization, THS is overcoming this by building a culture around data that is grounded in a user-friendly and intuitive platform. Combined with SIMON’s self-guided analytics suite of visualizations powered by Qlik, THS has also introduced online and face-to-face learning opportunities, access to an expansive data knowledge base and documented tutorials, as well as transparent processes. This is empowering THS employees to engage and ask questions. Furthermore, this reduces key-person dependency, improves quality of work and increases confidence to contribute to data conversations.

Plans Beyond the Pandemic

The COVID-19 Focus Board is opening doors and shining a light on what goals and outcomes can be achieved for the organization when there is investment in a data analytics strategy. Indeed, studies of predictive and machine learning are already being conducted by the CFA Data Science Group after realizing its potential.


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