Interview Series: Dr Ola Spencer, Group Head of IT, Data Protection Officer, Optegra UK

In our latest interview we asked Dr Ola Spencer, Group Head of IT from Optegra a few questions about the organisation’s data driven transformation strategy and how they have used data to drive change.

Could you tell me a bit about yourself and Optegra?

My background is medical, I began my studies in 2000 and continued in the UK with a PhD in Paediatric Oncology. I was interested in how technology shapes operating models in healthcare and moved to IBM where I spent six years.

I am now working for Optegra, where I have been for two years. Optegra is a specialist provider of ophthalmic services and a centre of excellence in eye care bringing together research and expertise with the latest equipment and surgeons. The Optegra journey is really interesting; different hospitals across different countries have been acquired and that has made us data rich.

Could you tell me about how data has driven transformation at Optegra?

At first we looked at the data landscape as a healthcare organisation. The sheer volume of data, from business, healthcare, patients, customers, meant we really struggled as a business to drive outcomes and insight.

I knew a Microsoft executive in the US and asked them who they thought were experts in data analytics but with healthcare knowledge. The answer was Draper and Dash and we worked from there.

From the beginning, we recognised the need to help shape the right business model and strategic direction for Optegra through digital transformation. We needed to ask ourselves: what are the key drivers and levers in our hospitals to enable us to provide better outcomes, work more effectively, and be more cost conscious to run and provide the best care and experience to our patients? We began by considering our patient volumes, the length of operations, patient outcomes and the impact of new technologies.

The work started by bringing data together into a single view to drive the decision-making process at a senior level. Since then, we have made fantastic progress in analysing historic information and data, we are now looking at forward projections to see where the business will be in the next 12 months.

What has been key to the success of your project?

First, to achieve full stakeholder buy-in and an understanding of the importance of data from the management team to front-line team members who touch the data day in and day out.

The second, was working in an effective partnership with Draper and Dash to make the project a success, they understood the vision and we knew they would be there at 6am when we needed them.

Could you give me an example of the data and insight you have found?

For Optegra, the end to end patient journey is key – from the initial moment someone books an appointment right through to surgery and treatment. We knew that journey was not as efficient as it could be, and we needed to understand which points and times were not working. The data enabled us to look at the volume of patients and how long it was taking to book them in.

A big observation was that unless the patient was booked in for surgery within seven days, they will quite often change their mind. So, we started looking at ways to streamline and provide more capacity within that seven days window.

The second was to understand our theatre management processes and how these intersect with the needs of the patients. We want to provide slots that are best suited for our customer base, the data dashboards helped us do that. Most of our patients are private and self-paid, they don’t want to take days off for surgery, so we considered times in the week to tailor the journey and capacity.

It is well recognised that data case mix adjusted outcomes and administrative data together can provide an organisation with an invaluable resource which, when used appropriately, can improve outcomes for patients and reduce costs for providers. As demand for cataract surgery increases and interest in refractive surgery continues to grow, Optegra Eye Sciences work with clinicians and marketing Colleagues to collect, evaluate and disseminate (internally and externally) the outcomes of treatments. Our results are presented at key international Congresses, shared with referrers and used in our clinics as part of an outcomes toolkit to provide information to patients to drive our business.

Over 99% of our cataract and refractive procedures consistently have an uncomplicated course. The reference standard for cataract procedures with no complications is ~96%.

For cataract surgery our results typically exceed benchmark standards for key metrics.

96% of eyes achieve the level of vision required to drive a car in the UK.

65% achieve 6/6 or better – a very good level of vision for a normal sighted person.

96% and 82% of eyes had prescriptions within ±1.00D and ±0.50D of target respectively

For newer procedures it is clearly more important to ensure the outcomes data are collated. The latest generation in laser procedures is called small incision lenticule extraction (SMILE) – sometimes referrred to as flapless LASIK. A study of binocular distance vision outcomes of 284 eyes of 142 consecutive SMILE treatments carried out at Optegra between Aug17 and Aug 18 showed that 100% achieved 20/20 or better without glasses.

For Refractive Lens Exchange our data consistently show that:

  • 99% of patients achieved driving standard without glasses and over 90% achieved 20/20 without glasses
  • Over 95% can read newspaper size print without glasses

Again patient satisfaction levels for refractive surgery procedures are consistently high with over 97% of patients willing to recommend to family and friends.

The project has been really insightful and there is more to optimise but we learnt that all the levers are quite tightly connected, so monitoring live data is absolutely crucial.

What advice would you give to someone who is at the start of a journey similar to yours?

Be flexible and agile, don’t try to solve the world. Really understand the outcomes you are trying to achieve and focus on how you get there in an iterative way.

It’s easy to get lost in the data. We now have 180 metrics on our data of daily, weekly, monthly datasets, from this we select the top 10 metrics to drive strategy, and focus.

Data should be at the top of your strategy – unless you really understand your business through data it is very hard to drive forward and secure leadership buy-in. It’s about leveraging what you already have.

What’s next?

One element, as we get better in understanding the data and levers, is to look at predictive analytics. This will help us think about where the market is heading and ensure we run a successful business backed up by the right data models to help us make informed business model decisions.