Plunket puts data to work

Digital Health Story - Data Insights

In 2015, Plunket embarked upon a digitisation programme that involved swapping Plunket nurses’ pen and paper for a tablet and cloud-based app.

As of December 2016, all of the organisation’s approximately 800 nurses enter information electronically into the organisation’s Electronic Plunket Health Record (ePHR).

This means that Plunket has a full year of electronic records for babies born in 2017. Plunket are also transferring key data from paper records into the electronic system, so older children are included in the datasets as well.

The ePHR has more than 63,000 enrolled children. More than 600,000 face-to-face contacts have been recorded and 300,000 other contact types have been recorded.

Plunket provides services for over 90% of children born in New Zealand, so eventually the organisation will have a rich dataset for almost every child in the country from age 0-5. Plunket has worked with IT security specialists and the Ministry of Health to ensure the security of client information.

Data analytics

Plunket nurses are capturing a range of data into the electronic record, including children’s measurements, vaccinations, breastfeeding and developmental milestones.

Also, information about the children’s environment and family, such as whether there is a smoker in the house or other relevant environmental factors.

The data is stored in the cloud and access is controlled via a multi-factor authentication system. Cases are assigned to a primary case owner who has a team, including health workers, managers and administrative staff, who are able to access information when necessary.

Chief technology and innovation officer at Plunket, Richard Ashworth, says the data set is now large enough, and the quality good enough, to provide real insight into the growth and health of Kiwi kids

“We now have enough data to really get a good picture of current ranges of children’s growth and developmental timeframes and what people struggle with. We can see what sorts of things families need more support with when they have children.”

He says that because the data can be interrogated in so many ways, Plunket can look at differences in expected measurements or outcomes according to ethnicity, age of parents or deprivation levels.

“We’re able to back up assumptions with statistics and cut the data in different ways,” says Mr Ashworth.

The organisation is also using the data to create national snapshots of immunisation rates, maternal mental health screening and breastfeeding rates.

“It’s starting to become a really powerful dataset for that sort of insight,” he says.



Incredible insights

Plunket chief executive Amanda Malu says the organisation is using this large data set to identify trends, areas of excellence and areas of need.

The organisation partnered with Microsoft on the project and uses the Power BI tool to analyse the data and use it to plan and deliver care.

The organisation can see at a glance how it is achieving against national targets, compare region to region or drill down to a granular level to see a specific nurse’s workload.

“It gives incredible insight into how we are performing in real-time. We are in a much more powerful position to have conversations about allocation of resource and funding with data to back it up,” says Ms Malu.

The value of linking data

While Plunket is already using the data to provide insight to the organisation, Ashworth says it is also “starting to actively consider what value the dataset has to organisations outside of Plunket.”

“We are looking at how value can be derived from that dataset for researchers and the Integrated Data Infrastructure run by  the Statistics  New Zealand,” he explains.

Another next step is to start combining it with external data sets around expected births by area to allow better forward planning.

Plunket is also working on a project to give parents access to their children’s health records on the ePHR and for parents to start inputting some of the information themselves online.

Mr Ashworth says this would free up Plunket nurses to spend more time during appointments on building a relationship and delivering clinical outcomes, rather than data entry, and will help with parent engagement through parent-led contact.


Published on 9 May 2018