Population-based needs assessment? We’ve got a PopNAT for that

Categories: Care and Research.

Today we launch PopNAT, our population-based needs assessment tool. With this launch Hospice UK realises an ambition that took shape following the Commission into the Future of Hospice Care.

The Commission recommended a significant increase in the use of population level data across hospice care. The Commission saw a vital need for hospices to increase their understanding of the needs of the local population, understand their reach across these populations, and to balance resources against the needs of that population. For national charities, such as Hospice UK, the Commission was clear that we have a responsibility to provide hospices with ways to explore population needs and the degree to which such needs are met.

PopNAT is a building block in this complex journey. It was developed with a specialist partner, Gavurin, and with a lot of input from hospice care professionals coming from a range of different perspectives. We held focus groups, ran online surveys and had testing by potential users at numerous points along the way. All this came together to inform the tool we launch today.

As part of the development of PopNAT we ran a survey in the autumn which asked hospices about their use of population data. The results were enlightening. While all respondents saw value in population needs assessment actually undertaking this work was far less uniform, for a variety of reasons.

A very high proportion of respondents (almost 90 per cent) said that information about their local population informed key decisions made in the organisation, such as design and development of services and service delivery planning. Yet when asked how strongly they agreed with the statement “My organisation has a clear, evidence-based understanding of the current and future hospice care needs of the local population” the average response was only 3 out of 5 (5 being ‘strongly agree’).

Further, just 50 per cent used population data to inform work on impact and outcomes assessment, meaning there’s much opportunity to understand the impact of hospice care and how well it meets local need.

Despite the value placed on population needs assessment, many respondents faced big barriers in actually undertaking this work. Almost 70 per cent of respondents said a lack of time and resources prevented them doing more to understand local need for hospice care. And 60 per cent said a lack of good data and a lack of analytic tools were barriers to population needs assessment.

PopNAT is a way to resolve a number of these challenges. It will reduce the amount of time needed to define and access relevant data. It has the potential to develop a common language about need for hospice care across the UK, while not skimming over local differences. It gives us a shared voice about the quantity of need and its component parts, across clinical, demographic and social domains.

These data can be used to develop insights into your local opportunities and challenges, support prioritisation of actions and drive evidence-based decision making. PopNAT has been designed in such a way that whether you have 30 minutes or a month, whether you have a degree in statistics or can barely open an email, you’ll be able to get useful information out of it. Users select an area to examine, and ‘cards’ under the Demographics tab provide a snapshot of the local population. Useful insights can be developed from these. More adventurous or experienced data users should then hit the ‘explore’ button to get into the detail under the headline figures.

Population insights can be applied across your organisation, from service design to financial planning, target setting, patient care, to workforce planning and income generation. We hope that staff across hospices, and on into local statutory bodies, research and policy will make use of the tool.

We welcome feedback and sharing of your insights and actions related to population needs analysis. Please get in touch via the feedback button in PopNAT or email popnat@hospiceuk.org if you’d like to write a blog or contribute a ‘suggestion card’ for future inclusion.