Staffing Plans and Quality Metrics

Almost a year ago to the day, I critiqued emerging efforts to publicly report the amount of care being delivered to hospital patients (worked hours per patient day — WHPPD) along with the quality of that care. At the end of my critique I said we would be challenging ourselves to re-work a few of the displays and for you to stay tuned. So, as promised, here is a brief (as in, we didn’t attempt to do it all!) prototype we created to explain and display this information.

Our Approach

In addition to a growing volume of patient-satisfaction and quality data, hospitals are increasingly sharing information on staffing levels with each other and the public, to help everyone become better-educated and more proactive healthcare consumers.

The challenge, however, is to communicate this complex information simply and clearly, allowing people to make informed decisions about how to plan and where to receive care.

We know that this type of communication requires a multifaceted approach: serious attention to translating healthcare jargon and statistics into plain language; combining data in meaningful ways for display; and applying the best practices of data visualization.

Using example data from several hospitals, we’ve created visualizations for two very different audiences — patients and their families; and healthcare professionals. In both displays, we introduced the information being communicated with a narrative at the top of each page along with several examples to explain the healthcare statistics and calculations presented.

Public — Patient View:

For the public communication, we have embedded summary information about each hospital, emergency department, and unit or floor right above the graphs, thereby eliminating the need to search or leave the page to find the information.

In patient view, we display completed-years data about the average number of patients cared for each day on a unit and the average number of caregiver hours each patient received. Next to this primary area are quality metrics for the same unit, and comparison data.

Public-Patient View
Public-Patient View

Click here to view interactive visualization

Healthcare Professionals View:

In the view designed for healthcare professionals, we created a graph showing the difference between the staffing plan and the actual number of worked hours per patient day for previous (completed) years. (We purposefully did not include this display for patients, since it could be mis-read as a quality-of-care indicator. Such an interpretation would require extensive analysis to ensure accuracy.) This display allows healthcare professionals to view how many hours of patient care were delivered and how well their plan (and other hospitals’ plans) matched their actual worked hours per patient day (WHPPD).

Healthcare Professionals View
Healthcare Professionals View

Click here to view interactive visualization

Tackling this project was challenging and fun (I know, I SO need to get a life!). Here’s why.

  • Deciding what data to display to two very different audiences caused us to think long and hard about the decisions healthcare professionals need to make versus patients and their families.
  • Crafting a narrative in plain language to explain complex measures and statistics challenged us to step outside of the healthcare jargon and simplify, simplify, simplify.
  • And finally, as we worked to find new ways to combine data for display in graphs, we had to be willing to go back to the drawing board several times before we found a workable solution.

Yes, this is my idea of fun… there is nothing like the thrill of tackling a really hard problem and exploring alternative solutions until you land on something that works. It’s exhilarating!

I would be crazy to say that any of this work is “one and done” because it isn’t and it can’t be. Rather, as the data evolves and audiences have new and different decisions to make, the way in which we communicate it will and must also evolve. And although I haven’t told my team this yet, I am already thinking about more and different ways to communicate this data…so stay tuned (again)!

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