Improving Patient Outcomes With Data Analysis

16 Mar 2017

UC statistics honours student Peter Qiu

Statistics students from the University of Canterbury (UC) have completed another set of successful research projects using data from electronic assessment tool, interRAI.

The preliminary findings were presented to a range of health care professionals via 14 videoconference sites across the South Island and in Wellington on 9 February, and included representatives from across the health system.  

Dr Hamish Jamieson, geriatrician and UC senior lecturer in medicine, led the presentation and the students presented their projects on two key topics – the effects medication management can have as a predictor of admissions to aged residential care, and how social support can influence aged residential care admissions in people with dementia. The videoconference was also an opportunity for attendees to discuss the findings and share ideas.

This is the second year the interRAI data was combined with other health data sets to inform health service development. This year, data analysis was carried out by UC statistics and mathematics students, Marina Chen and Peter Qiu, as part of their degree programme. The projects were completed in conjunction with the South Island Alliance’s Health of Older People Service Level Alliance (HOPSLA), the New Zealand Health and Ageing Group, and the University of Otago.

The link between medication management and residential care admissions

Third year statistics student Marina’s research revealed one of the biggest predictors of entering aged residential care was difficulties with medication management, irrespective of whether or not someone had an existing cognitive impairment.

Dr Jamieson, who helped coordinate the projects, says he was surprised medication management was such a major factor. “The fact that patients are finding complexities in managing their medication could indicate a number of things. While it can be a challenging thing to do, it could also alert us to early problems with cognition. The benefit of using the interRAI data is that we can listen to the patients without any preconceptions, and this method allows novel ways to see what their needs are.”

The influence of social support

A second project was completed by fourth year UC statistics honours student, Peter Qiu, who focused on how social support influences aged residential care admission in people with dementia. The project highlighted linkages between how often people are visited by their family members and how this relates to whether or not they enter residential care. “Understanding the patients’ needs and carer stress is really important, to benefit the patient, their family, whānau and carers,” Dr Jamieson says.

Improving patient outcomes with health data

Professor Jennifer Brown, of the UC School of Mathematics and Statistics, facilitates project work associated with interRAI. She says it was great to achieve another successful year of student research. “It’s really important for students and the university to be involved with health data. I hope this will lead to ongoing work with the South Island Alliance and the health system.”

A new degree called Data Science is currently in development at the UC, she says, which may also provide opportunities for students to complete more research in health data in the future.

Dr Jamieson says understanding the needs of ageing people is increasingly complex and multi-dimensional. “Having advanced statistical techniques helps us understand the interRAI data set, what patients’ needs are, and how to better understand those needs – in order to align services as best as we can, to improve patient outcomes.”


Published on: Thursday, March 16th, 2017, under Information services