Business Intelligence BC PSLS Analytics

Patients with kidneys that no longer function properly receive regular hemodialysis to filter wastes, salts and fluids from their blood. The St. Paul’s Hospital Renal Program is the largest in BC – it houses a 46-station hemodialysis unit that serves 300 patients, on average, three times per week. Here’s how their team uses BC PSLS Analytics (business intelligence) to identify quality improvement opportunities and enhance patient care.

The St. Paul's Renal Program team with Michele Trask, Operations Leader (second from left) and a dialysis patient.

The St. Paul’s Renal Program team with Michele Trask, Operations Leader (second from left) and a dialysis patient.

Understanding how to retrieve healthcare data, interpret it, and use it to inform operational decision-making is essential for improving quality of care and patient safety. But the majority of healthcare providers are not trained in how to use business intelligence (BI) tools and analytics platforms, making it difficult for healthcare organizations to fully benefit from these incredible technologies.

To help, we introduced BC PSLS Publications in 2013 to give healthcare leaders access to pre-formatted interactive reports of category-specific data for their area(s). We’ve received positive feedback about the quality and usability of these reports, but the real value of BC PSLS Analytics is knowing how to delve even deeperhow to “slice and dice” the data – and that’s where the expertise of a data analyst can offer unparalleled insight.

“Sometimes what gets lost is the use of data to drive quality improvement initiatives, but that’s where our focus should be,” says Karl Newholm, Performance Improvement Consultant, Providence Health Care (PHC).

“It’s really about creating stories from BC PSLS data to provide much more context for clinical teams.”

For Michele Trask, Renal Program Operations Leader, Karl’s knowledge of healthcare data and his ability to work with BC PSLS reports in a familiar environment (such as Excel) has been critical for her team to identify areas for improvement.

“We have regular meetings where we review BC PSLS data and give people the opportunity to look at it objectively. That approach removes any blame and allows us to focus on strategies that will improve patient care.”

Michele says it took some time, but staff have become more familiar and comfortable with BC PSLS data, recognizing its value for shedding light on fixable issues.

“When information is there in black and white it’s very compelling and you never have to talk anyone into making a change that will improve patient care.”

This progression from data collection, to analysis, to a process of social and participative learning is indicative of a culture of safety, and enables the Renal Program team to effectively use BC PSLS to achieve meaningful improvements in patient safety.

From reporting to learning to improvement

Falls Prevention

Falls prevention is extremely important for dialysis patients because they often have frail bones, even if they are young. Using BC PSLS Analytics, the Renal Program team identified transfer points and stepping on the scale as two situations where patients were at high-risk for falling (transfer points include moving from a bed to a dialysis chair or wheelchair, and patients are weighed every time they come for dialysis).

“Karl did a breakdown of falls events in our area and we passed that information on to our clinical nurse educator. She’s developing a fall prevention program specific to dialysis which includes posters to raise awareness among patients and families. And we’ve re-adjusted some things on our unit with a forced function in mind so patients who are unable to do these activities on their own must wait for staff to come help.”

Medication Safety

Patients who suffer from renal failure usually take multiple medications, several times per day, making it difficult for them to keep track. With BC PSLS Analytics, the Renal Program team identified why certain medication errors were happening with increased frequency in certain populations and implemented a new change based on their findings.

“Because we’re an outpatient unit we don’t have a Medication Administration Record (MAR) like in-patient units do. So we created our own, specifically for dialysis patients, that we keep in their medical chart. It’s a small change that reduced the number of medication errors on our unit.”

Hand Hygiene

Hand hygiene is an important patient safety measure in all areas of healthcare. When the Renal Program team noticed a spike in their BC PSLS data it raised a flag that there was a problem.  

“Our hand hygiene compliance rates dropped significantly. When we looked at the data we learned it was because the soap dispensers were frequently empty and there weren’t enough paper towels. So we worked with Housekeeping and Infection Control to fix the problem for us. It really highlighted the value of reporting in BC PSLS and collaborating with others to improve safety.”

All of these changes are helping to keep dialysis patients safe. Looking forward, Michele would like to improve the patient experience even more by bringing in an artist so that patients who have an interest in painting or drawing will have that opportunity during their dialysis appointment.

“It’s a very different relationship with dialysis patients. You get to know them and what they like and who they are as people in terms of what is meaningful to them, so it’s important that we make their experience the best it can be,” she says.

The St. Paul's Renal Program was recognized with a 3M award for innovation. Patients are now grouped according to where they are in their dialysis journey.

The St. Paul’s Renal Program was recognized with a 3M award for innovation. Patients are now grouped according to where they are in their dialysis journey.

Hemodialysis re-design wins 3M Quality Award – St. Paul’s Hospital

Karl Newholm is a Quality Improvement Specialist and Performance Improvement Consultant to Providence Health Care’s (PHC) Renal Program. He also supports various system-wide quality improvement initiatives across PHC, where he’s been for the past seven years. Prior to joining PHC, Karl was the Corporate Leader, Planning and Performance at Interior Health.

You can reach Karl at

Michele Trask has been an Operations Leader with the St. Paul’s Renal Program since 2006 and was appointed Operations Leader for In Centre Hemodialysis in 2011. She began her nursing career working in Emergency and midwifery in the United Kingdom. She’s been an international healthcare volunteer, primarily in Latin America, and teaches at the School of Nursing at Langara College. Michele is an adjunct professor for the School of Nursing at the University of British Columbia.

You can reach Michele at

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