CIHI’s keen focus on data quality is gradually being shared by family physicians and GPs across Canada. Clinician feedback reveals a greater desire to embrace “data discipline” (purposeful structured, consistent data entry) because it benefits primary health care practices. And, as such, quality data trickles down and improves patient experiences as well.
Let’s head to Toronto for an example of one physician who has fully embraced this. Dr. Betty Choi-Fung’s practice is part of a bustling family health team of 17 doctors. With CIHI’s support over the years, she has gradually organized and catalogued vital health information—the essence of data quality.
“I’ve learned the function of data is to inform,” Dr. Choi-Fung said. “As a practising clinician, I would only want to work with the best possible quality data set, and to seek improvements based on this data.”
Three years ago, her practice began instituting electronic medical records (EMRs). She says that she was fortunate to have signed on to CIHI’s Primary Health Care Voluntary Reporting System, as she became more aware of the importance of data quality. At that point, data discipline was a loose concept, both for her and for those in her practice.
The first year with the EMRs was difficult, Dr. Choi-Fung admits, as she was aiming to input data in a way that could measure quality. CIHI’s Primary Health Care team helped her identify the priority areas to tidy up data and, soon after, she says, CIHI’s feedback reports became clearer and more meaningful.
The Power of a Simple Change
Sometimes simple fixes can help transform patient care. Dr. Choi-Fung began using standardized codes—250 for diabetes, 401 for hypertension, for example—that helped capture accurate data on her patients. Her team started diligently coding patients’ records.
With the power of three numbers, her EMR data is better organized and she can track improvements in her patients more easily. “For example, for my diabetes patients, I was able to find out how many A1c tests were not meeting their target.”
The improved data input has freed her up to spend more time providing care and less time wading through the technical waters of EMRs. Also, accurate coding has led to accurate data, and with that, Dr. Choi-Fung can understand precisely what is happening with her patients. In a busy clinic—she has 400 diabetes patients alone—that is no small matter.
Data quality is the foundation of CIHI. Recognized internationally for its high standards, CIHI’s Data and Information Quality program is guided by a framework and processes that ensure data is being continuously improved. To learn more, visit our Data Quality web page.
In the end, good data leads to good decisions . . . and healthier Canadians.