Data Saves Lives (and Buildings)

by Dr Melanie Robinson | December 9, 2022 | 5 min read

Data Saves Lives (and Buildings)
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The National Health Service (NHS) is a hallmark of great British life, a sentiment that has only strengthened throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the UK, Health is described as the ‘nation’s biggest asset’ and the UK Government’s ‘top domestic priority’, with the NHS estate and infrastructure forming a critical component in being able to meet our healthcare needs.

The need to invest in the NHS estate was reinforced through the publication of the Health Infrastructure Plan (HIP), published in 2019. The plan set out a rolling five year programme looking at how the UK Government is investing in its healthcare estate, including the ambitious New Hospital Programme (NHP).

The NHP requires new hospitals to be ‘digital by default’ (although the jury is still out on what that means). The HIP states: “The NHS’ infrastructure is not just about ‘bricks and mortar’ – it is also about the digital technologies and data sharing capabilities that are needed to provide better care to the public, in a way that is strategic and joined up with estates planning”.

This, in addition to the obligations under the Building Safety Act (BSA) to develop and maintain digital information, reinforces the vital role data plays in our healthcare estate.

The recognition of the power of data is reflected in the compellingly named publication ‘Data Saves Lives’. Whilst the focus of the document resides in how data can contribute to better patient and social care, its principles can be applied to creating and operating better infrastructure. After all, better buildings and physical environments are contributing factors to better health outcomes.

At BIM Academy, we propose amendments to the seven principles set out in Data Saves Lives document to demonstrate how we can use data to better understand our built assets:

Principle 1:

Original: Improving trust in the health and care system’s use of data
Revised: Improving trust in the health and care system’s use of built asset data

The vision for Principle 1 is increasing NHS Trusts’ confidence in their built asset data and can rely on the quality and accuracy of this information to improve how assets are used. This shifts the narrative from how the public view their own data held by NHS Trusts, to how the Trusts can specify and manage their built asset data in a manner that is safe and secure.

Principle 2:

Original: Giving health and care professionals the information they need to provide the best possible care
Revised: Giving built environment professionals the information they need to optimise the use of their assets

The second principle looks to improve accessibility to data for Trusts, which can extend to the staff dealing the management of the Trust’s assets, facilities and estates. The vision is for these staff to have easy access to the right information at the right time to get the best use out of their assets.

Principle 3:

Original: Improving the data for adult social care
Revised: Improving data for asset optimisation

Trusts should be looking to not only manage their assets, but to optimise how they are run. To do this, built environment professionals with Trusts should have access to timely, high quality data to improve asset quality and inform choices about their use of their assets.

Principle 4:

Original: Supporting local and national decision-makers with data
Revised: Supporting local decision makers, such as estate managers and Trusts, and national decision-makers with data

Estate managers, strategic planners and Trusts will have up to date sophisticated data to make effective decisions and help the estate run at its best.

Principle 5:

Original: Empowering researchers with the data they need to develop life changing treatments, diagnostics, models of care and insights
Revised: Empowering built environment professionals and researchers with the data they need to develop smart hospital solutions and insights

Built environment professionals and researchers will be able to safely and easily access data to provide innovative smart hospital solutions for the benefit of all.

Principle 6:

Original: Working with partners to develop innovations that improve health and care
Revised: Working with partners to develop innovations that improve built assets and their estates

Innovators will be supported to develop and deliver new solutions quickly and safely for the benefit of all citizens, staff and the system.

Principle 7:

Original: Developing the right technical infrastructure

The seventh and final principle requires no change, as the right technical infrastructure is of vital importance to any use of digital technologies and data. Based on the original vision, the Government should ensure the data architecture underpinning the health and care system can easily work together to make more effective and efficient use of data.

Understanding how good quality, consistent data can impact the estate is critical to how Trusts specify their information requirements. This should not only focus on capital project information, but predominantly draw from operational workstreams across the Trust, such as within its digital, estates, clinical, and environmental strategies. Only by providing this holistic view and aligning to the seven key principles outlined here will Trusts achieve an intelligent hospital.

To understand more about digitalising healthcare assets, contact Dr Melanie Robinson at [email protected].