Man's hands typing on a laptopA new software system designed at Waterloo is improving patient care and setting the gold-standard in data reporting at Grand River Hospital. One day, it may help patients choose what kind of treatment to receive.

“Data reporting is a tedious but necessary job for hospitals,” said Helen Chen, a professor in the School of Public Health and Health Systems who led the project in collaboration with Grand River Hospital. “It goes on behind the scenes, but it directly affects the amount of funding programs receive from the government and their ability to offer the best quality and experience for patients.”

The new software — called NephroPort — was designed to help expedite the data reporting process for the hospital’s regional renal program. The program provides care to over 3,500 registered patients with kidney disease. All regional renal programs in Ontario are required to provide patient and administrative data to the Ontario Renal Reporting System (ORRS) on a monthly basis.

NephroPort works by automating data aggregation and validating it, a process that took 12 staff over 80 hours each month to complete. It first collects data from all the hospital’s renal patient management systems, including dialysis machines, and then generates reports on each patient. From these, it extracts necessary fields and compiles it into reports for the ORRS.

“Prior to NephroPort, reporting was an incredibly time-consuming process, but it was also a process full of holes,” said Kathleen Lavoie, ‎chief information management officer at Grand River Hospital. “On average we were only able to compile about 45 per cent of the data required by the ORRS each month. Now we have 98 per cent of it.”

The new data helps paint a clearer picture for the hospital— and the government— about how resources are used and the number of patients relying on treatment.

“It was absolutely essential we developed an automated reporting tool that addressed the growing needs to report patient level data,” said Peter Varga, program director at Grand River Hospital and Regional Director of the Ontario Renal Network. “NephroPort provides us with a highly effective software solution that can adapt, evolve and expand to our ongoing data needs.  With NephroPort, we have high level of trust in our data because we’re utilizing the medical record and real time information to best understand our services and patient needs.”

Personalized healthcare

Beyond building a case for more funding, better data reporting is driving a trend towards more personalized health care.

“By having complete data for every patient, the treatment they received and their outcome, it will eventually be possible for newly diagnosed individuals to weigh their options by looking at cases most similar to their own,” said Chen. “Personalized healthcare is based on health informatics. Without enough data, these types of options just won’t be possible.”

Health informatics has the potential to increase the odds for positive outcomes among patients and give clinicians and patients the tools to make more informed decisions.

“Health informatics has the ability to empower healthcare professionals by giving them access to information not just among their own patients, but across hospitals, and around the world,” said Chen.  “It will be a game-changer for healthcare as we know it.”