Finding the right information and using it effectively is getting harder for NHS organisations. Here’s how the right enterprise search tools help.
Making information within an NHS organisation widely available to staff that need it can be a headache. The issue is that data is often scattered outside the corporate data warehouse, in various systems and data silos.
The importance of being able to sift through data from multiple sources, and linking together nuggets of information to give a clearer, more meaningful picture is growing. With increasing correlation of data needed to spot trends in care delivery, finances and more, simply ‘making do’ with the limited data and search tools currently available is no longer a valid option.
Without effective organisation-wide search techniques, clinicians, analysts, managers and other key staff end up wasting time as they hunt across multiple systems for a piece of information. Worse still, has the same information already been searched for and found by another person – only for someone else to have to repeat the whole process? So organisation-wide search techniques is moving from 'nice to have' to 'need to have'.
Search solutions in demand
The type of search solution that can search across multiple systems is known as an enterprise search tool. From the user’s point of view, it works in a similar way to using Internet search engines such as Yahoo. Using a simple web interface and the ability to search using keywords typed in everyday language, people get search results organised by ranking which they can further refine.
However, the solution itself works in a different way. It provides results by analysing the unstructured, semi-structured and structured information held in unconnected data resources within organisations. It automatically categorises this information, and providing intelligent links to it, irrespective of data format, structure, location or parent application. The solution can also provide summaries and rankings to assess the importance of any items of information in a result, and help guide the user toward the results that are most relevant to their search – giving a single source of access to relevant information with little or no need for educating users, which cuts costs in terms of specialised software licensing, deployment and training.
Results can be displayed more creatively too. After all, the act of search is not the answer in itself – it’s all about the results. Most search solutions simply return results as a list of text matches. This does little to show the user how closely the result matches their search, or the relevancy.
What’s more, if a user conducts multiple related searches, working with lists of results make correlation and analysis time-consuming and unwieldy.
Solutions like Ardentia’s NetSearch go beyond simple lists of results, giving users a range of powerful presentation-layer functions such as Venn diagrams. These enable overlaying of results of multiple related searches – allowing users to explore commonalities between groups or search results, building an in-depth picture of results from seemingly unconnected data.
So what healthcare applications can benefit from enterprise search? Here are seven key healthcare applications to start with.