Improving data accuracy

With lingering legacy processes, data trapped on paper and the pressures of synchronisation across multiple disparate systems - it’s not hard to see why many public sector organisations struggle with data accuracy. The sheer volume of data held by healthcare, local government, housing, policing, and education organisations across the UK is enough to contend with, but additional challenges in administrative resources are another common burden.  

Nonetheless, these data discrepancies are only adding to further issues down the line. It goes without saying that informational errors within systems have their consequences – often leading to additional projects required to resolve them. So just how can we prevent inaccuracies in the first instance? In this edition of Hot Topics, we share our four top tips for improving patient and resident data accuracy in the public sector.  

Digitise your data capture  

As mentioned, plenty of public sector processes are still paper based. As well as the environmental impacts, paper-based processes aren’t great for overall data accuracy. With so many implications involved – like handwriting discrepancies, risk of losing physical documents, room for inconsistent feedback and more – data trapped on paper is one of the leading challenges still faced by the public sector today.  

Digitising your data capture methods is the most effective way to tackle this problem. With mobile applications and eForms, data accuracy can improve at outstanding rates – allowing your organisation to make better, more informed decisions later down the line. Benefits of these implementations include:  

  • Improved data security with reduced GDPR & data loss risk 
  • Integration with back-office systems to eradicate rekeying & facilitate cross-system synchronisation  
  • Uniform information entry for clean, congruent datasets 
  • Reduced human-error with field formatting - including mandatory input fields, date and time formatting, file specifications & more 
  • Easy access to API and Web Service connections to take full advantage of dynamic third-party widgets, cognitive services & other enhancements 
  • Creation of modern, brand-compliant & user-friendly user interfaces, with advanced control over user experience and navigational components 

However, even though many processes do remain paper-reliant, the benefits of digital transformation in data capture are nothing new to the public sector. Digitisation is currently one of the largest priorities in public-serving organisations across the UK, but oftentimes these same organisations don’t have the capacity or internal resources required to code solutions from scratch.  

Luckily, there are still ways to navigate these challenges. Low-code and no-code solutions are a great way to deliver the data accuracy benefits of mobile apps and eForms. For example, all products within the NDL Evolve Transformation Platform feature graphic-lead drag and drop studies that allow digital transformations to be designed, deployed and managed with little to no code experience required.  

Synchronise back-office systems  

Due to its constant evolution and service-focused nature, the public sector currently relies on a huge multitude of disparate back-office systems. As its capabilities and requirements grow, it’s no wonder organisations feel the need to implement new systems – but integrating or replacing those existing and legacy systems isn’t often as easy.  

In order to overcome these limitations, many organisations have been implementing the use of robotic process automation (RPA) to emulate those monotonous, repetitive administrative tasks required to improve data accuracy across the board with cross-system synchronisation. Whether that be the migration of unstructured data within an end-of-life system into a new one – or the entering of data into multiple system as and when it is received.  

Data accuracy across a network of systems ensures all relative departments can make those important and impactful decisions with confidence - whether that be in the day-to-day agenda, or through precise data analysis and reporting. In other words, not only does data capture digitisation provide teams with correct information when providing a service, but it allows them to forecast and allocate essential resources. 

Eradicate rekeying  

Rekeying is another large contributor to data inaccuracies within the public sector and it’s not hard to see why – when entering information twice, it’s then twice as likely that we’ll make a mistake. Despite that, data rekeying is still a common practice within the public sector – largely due to the reasons outlined in our last point: there’s a large number of disparate systems at play.  

As a result, many processes require an element of rekeying – such as capturing data on paper on the job or in the field, then re-entering this information into back-office systems at base. However, this practice has multiple implications on data accuracy, including:  

  • Data loss is a real risk in rekeying processes, with plenty of opportunity for information to get lost. Whether that be from misplacing or damaging physical copies before reaching base, or from forgetting information due to inadequate notetaking. 
  • Poor handwriting is another risky element to rekeying, especially if the person taking the notes isn’t necessarily the one who enters them into a system afterwards.  
  • Human error is another big consideration in rekeying. There’s a lot that can go wrong – it’s very easy to enter the wrong notes for a resident or patient, and there’s no way to ensure workers enter information to the correct and relevant field.  
  • Time challenges also impact data quality where rekeying is involved, as it causes delays to updates. Particularly in high frequency and volume processes, capturing new data as quickly as possible allows data to remain as accurate as it can be. Even if data is correct at time of collection, it may become inaccurate if changes occur by the time we’ve been able to rekey it.  

Mobile apps and eForms can be created in a number of ways, but NDL Digitise provides an advantage when utilised to emulate rekeying – information can be saved locally where connection isn’t available, and can be synchronised and uploaded as soon as connection is restored.  

Promote best practice 

No matter the power of any implemented digital project, benefits rarely have impact without internal buy-in. It’s important to ensure your end-users are engaged with your solutions to improve data accuracy. Properly scoping projects, providing training for those using the tools and listening to feedback are all essential to creating a process with longevity. Teaching and promoting best practice is a sure-fire way to improve data accuracy, so make sure to invest time in deploying your transformations with your people in mind.  

Interested to learn how your public sector organisation could improve its data accuracy, or how the NDL Evolve Transformation Platform could streamline your processes? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of our team. Looking for more inspiration? Browse our blogs and real-life public sector use cases, and don’t forget to join us at our next industry-leading event.