Delivering genuine improvement to care quality remains our central aim at Thalamos. Rather than merely replicate the existing system electronically, our mission has always been to support the evolution of the Mental Health Act (MHA) and be part of the drive to improve patient care. Now, following the pandemic-induced rush to digitisation, it’s time to ‘build back better’; cementing the benefits we’ve seen over the past year. But to do that effectively, it’s essential that providers have a clear picture of the existing landscape. And for this they need data.
Whether its delays in treatment, patient safeguarding, or the discrepancies faced by patients from minority groups, the problems outlined in the government’s proposal for MHA reform are extremely nuanced and diverse. Reliable, detailed data is therefore essential for first understanding, and then actioning the necessary improvements these areas need. Digitisation of the MHA pathway is providing us with quality data on this scale for the first time. We must take advantage of this data to pinpoint where issues lie before leveraging it to drive forward tangible reform.
Data obtained from the paper-based MHA is by nature prone to human error and omission. Mistakes are difficult to catch; information may be incorrectly recorded, or in some cases omitted entirely, and this leaves us with data that is skewed. Manual transfer between clinicians and providers further heightens the risks of anomalies, where information is potentially misplaced, lost or accessed by the wrong person. This renders any extracted data incomplete, giving an inaccurate testimony to overall care quality.
Having broader, more accurate data, like that provided by a digital MHA, enables us to better steer reform. At Thalamos, we’re facilitating more efficient data entry; clinicians are guided through the form-filling process, with any omissions flagged before submission. Electronic transfer also reduces the chance of data going missing or being placed in the wrong hands. Added encryption and audit trails help guard data against unauthorised access and track it to ensure that no changes can be made.
This transparency makes it clear exactly where data has originated, who has been able to access it, and whether any changes have been made. A fuller, authentic picture of the MHA is presented. And, as a result, a more informed idea of where improvements must be made can be drawn.
In order to make substantial improvements, clinicians and providers must be able to effectively review their own practices using reliable data. By signposting the areas which need the most attention, it enables services to move confidently in the direction of progress. Data of the breadth and accuracy required is simply not available from the paper-based system. But the digital MHA is offering it in abundance.
This data can be efficiently recorded and shared between providers, holding up a mirror directly to each individual practice. Far less disparate than paper-based data, it can be collated and centrally compared. Waiting times for admission at one hospital can be held up against those at another, for example. Likewise, the demographic of patients in different geographical areas can be compared to identify where potential bias may lie.
With such data at their disposal, individual clinicians and providers are able to critically assess their own practices alongside comparing themselves with others. Improvements can consequently be made on not only an individual, but also a collective scale. This helps to refine services and drive up standards across the board.
The end goal with data-led improvements is to create better experiences, treatment and outcomes for MHA patients. And, while it may be tempting to assume that digitisation takes us further away from a people-centred MHA, the opposite is in fact true. Digitisation, and the quality of data it provides, helps us put the patient back at the very heart of the MHA.
By providing more accurate, comprehensive and reliable data, we’re helping clinicians make tangible positive change based on an accurate reflection of current issues. Areas of need are more easily identified. Whether it’s by revealing exactly where and how those from minority groups are being disproportionately affected, or demonstrating where certain inefficiencies may be exacerbating treatment delays, data from the digital MHA provides the insight desperately needed to accurately direct change.
It’s almost impossible to solve a puzzle without first having a clear idea of the picture you are aiming to create. And the same goes for MHA reform. Digitisation offers the data necessary to paint an image of exactly where improvements should be heading. It is an essential tool for introducing the care quality improvements so fundamental to reform.
Arden spent 12 years working with private equity businesses helping them build best-in-class executive teams, manage company restructures, accelerate growth and prepare management buyout deals. Arden’s dad (also called Arden) is a psychiatrist, which opened his eyes to acute mental health care from a young age. After witnessing a close friend being sectioned first-hand, he founded Thalamos to improve the process and outcome for those in crisis.
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