Data Analytics Eases Back Pains in Australia

Data analytics is helping healthcare professionals to address nagging health issues.

The STARS (Sydney Local Health District Targeted Activity and Reporting System) Back Pain App offers a prime example. The app, which is powered by Qlik, enables healthcare professionals to treat lower back pain that affects 3.7 million Australians.

An estimated 540 million people worldwide are affected by this ailment at any one time. A study by Monash University indicated that back pain reduces Australia's GDP by AUD 3.2 billion a year.

The STARS Back Pain App provides a summary of patients with lower back pain while highlighting clinical variations. Healthcare professionals can compare data across hospitals. In turn, it drives conversations about trends, prescription rates, and patient care.

“One of the best things about this app is that each individual can ask their own questions, interrogate the data, and arrive at conclusions without doing extensive and time-consuming audits,” said Dr. Bethan Richards, director of Rheumatology at RPA Hospital, who led a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, researchers and IT specialists, to design the STARS Back Pain App.

Standard information about lower back pain already exists in electronic medical record systems. But they were in silos. STARS Back Pain App links these data sets in a governed, near real-time manner.

"This leads to changes in behavior without intervention. Healthcare professionals have been empowered to start asking questions on their own and debunk myths they have about their performance: Why are we different? Is it that we're getting sicker patients at this hospital versus another hospital? The data initiates a conversation and starts to create its own momentum,” said Charlie Farah, director, Healthcare & Public Sector APAC at Qlik.

A new model of care for back pain was also implemented with the app. New educational resources for both doctors and patients help to reduce the reliance on strong opioid medicines.

“Data can be used for evidence-based management of back pain, which means we can ensure our patients are receiving the best care possible. In addition, clinicians are more likely to use the platform because it gives them a view on their own real-world data. The data is in front of them and ready to be leveraged. The app has already changed the way clinicians in our trial are treating patients,” said Dr. Gustavo Machado, Research Fellow at the Institute for Musculoskeletal Health’s NHMRC who led the emergency department trial of the app.

Three participating emergency departments across NSW currently use the STARS Back Pain App. They include RPA Hospital, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, and Canterbury Hospital.

SLHD is working with the NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation on rolling it out across all NSW emergency departments. It has commenced work with Monash University to begin a similar project in Victoria.