Interactive Behavioral Health Dashboards Can Improve Patient Care

Back when I was the director of a large psychiatric rehabilitation program, I really could have used the data that can be collected on an interactive EHR dashboard. The dashboard would have provided me with real time patient data about the quality of care being provided.

Without dashboards, I’d often have to spend time finding the data instead of having it at my fingertips. And sometimes, by the time I found the information, the situation had changed and I would have to start over. After finding the data, I had to get in touch with the clinician to assist in analyzing the information. The clinician was often busy and did not have time to assist, so I had to rely on perception to gauge the well-being of the residents rather than using objective, holistic data. The real effect was that it made it very difficult to provide evidence-based care.

The primary purpose of using dashboards is to save time. At least 80% of the time in analysis is spent hunting for and gathering data, rather than understanding and interpreting data:

  1. Understanding the need to gather data
  2. Hunting for the data
  3. Gathering or compiling data
  4. Interpreting & Improving data
  5. Distributing the data


 I was spending a lot of time pulling together reports, rather than focusing on value added activities.

After I was given (or found) clinical reports, I had to take the time to organize and evaluate the data to interpret it. Even if the data was in an Excel spreadsheet, it was still raw line-item data that lacked visual displays of trends in the program. Which of my clinicians would have time to answer questions like, “How are my residents doing in comparison to last 30 days? Is the number of residents increasing or decreasing? or What is the breakdown of the residents by diagnosis?”

The same inefficiencies continue to be a problem in behavioral health. With the move to value based payment, the ability to work with real time data will become even more critical.

The Case for Interactive, Behavioral Health Specific Dashboards

Behavioral health dashboards are critical for users who need client and program-specific information to answer their questions in an easy to understand format. It is much easier to create a dashboard to provide specific information at a glance rather a monthly line item report of patient data. The users do not have to understand specific computer language to gather and interpret data. Because the dashboard provides me with near real time data, this allows me to make the necessary changes to assure the best care for my residents.

Dashboards also serve the purpose of allowing staff to see if their work is making a difference in the lives of our patients. I have found dashboards also help to improve job satisfaction. Staff are able to see the improvements that have been made and maintain them.

5 Key Qualities of a Good Dashboard

There are many aspects of building a dashboard. But as an administrator who has worked with many dashboards, I have found five specific qualities that are critical:

  • Be easily accessible. The dashboard must be easily found for each end-user that needs evaluate the data, and the data must be easy to digest.
  • Display reliable data. If the staff member does not trust the data they will not use it. Including those who use the data in the build and validation process can significantly help the team buy in.
  • Contain relevant data. A good dashboard should only contain the data users need. If the dashboard collects 50 metrics and the user only needs 5, the remaining 45 become useless information.
  • Use timely data. A dashboard needs to contain near real time data so the staff can address challenges promptly. For example, if a resident’s treatment plan isn’t working, it is much harder to figure out the reason for their lack of improvement if that data is a couple of week’s old. If the information is current, it is much easier for the treatment team to adjust the resident’s plan.
  • Include trends and/or benchmarks. Trends and benchmarks show staff where they have been with a resident and where they need to go. If improvement efforts in the plan do not seem to be making a difference, the staff need to know so they can change that part of the plan that seems to be ineffective. Keeping this information in front of the staff definitely benefits the resident, and keeps staff engaged and motivated.
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