Calculate. Communicate. Connect. Excel 2013 for healthcare professionals

If there is one characteristic built into the heart of the new, more granular, structure of the NHS, it is fluidity. A much larger range of public, private and third sector organisations, representing a web or network (rather than a tree with the Department for Health at the top) will be required to interact with one another, the aim being to provide better and more economical care as a result.

Top quality information is crucial to making this architecture work. Without useful data, managers and providers will not be able to make good strategic, financial or operational decisions about how to work with one another. Similarly, the work of regulators Monitor and the Care Quality Commission will be impossible. And without useful data, as Mid-Staffs and Leeds have shown, despite diligence in collecting information, the public will not have confidence in those to whom their care has been assigned.

What makes data ‘useful’ is a range of characteristics. It needs to be correct. It needs to be viewed in context. It needs to be clearly understood by the people who are going to use it. It needs to be shared with as wide a constituency as reasonably possible to create value. These sorts of ideal outcomes are true from the very top – the strategic decisionmaker – through to each interaction in a patient’s episode of care.

They are also exactly the sort of information concerns with which businesses are wrestling too. It is no surprise, then, that some of the most useful features of Excel 2013, the latest version of Microsoft’s desktop analysis and data software, are as applicable to healthcare professionals as to managers in companies.

Any new launch yields a raft of new features, so let’s look at Excel 2013 under three broad umbrellas: Calculate, Communicate and Connect.

Calculate: Make better use of the information you harvest

  • A new addition in Excel 2013 is QuickAnalysis, which automatically and instantly analyses, formats and presents data in Excel spreadsheets. It makes it faster and easier for users without deep Excel knowledge to extract meaning from datasets.
  • Excel 2013 includes over 60 new mathematical, statistical and date/time functions. The engineering and trigonometric additions might not be your cup of tea, but the new statistical functions (binomial distributions, permutations, gamma and Gauss) and web integrations could be very useful indeed.
  • The ‘Fill Down’ function is a staple Excel timesaver; it has now been augmented with Flash Fill, which automatically fills spaces in calculation datasets.

Communicate: Explain information clearly

  • A new class of animations brings charts to life when cell values are changed – ideal for making “What If” scenarios simple to understand.
  • Excel includes new, more flexible labelling options for making charts clearer.
  • As with all previous releases, Excel 2013 includes plenty of new templates and visual shortcuts to make creating budgets, financial reports and forecasts faster and easier to understand.

Connect: Extract data from more places, share it with more people

  • Excel 2013 is designed from the ground up to operate in a networked environment. It has all the tools you need to create relationships with other spreadsheets and mine other data sources, so you can use real-time data direct to the desktop.
  • Save your files to Office 365 repositories (e.g. SharePoint) directly from the familiar file interface: no training and with no extra spending on systems or infrastructure required. This creates an environment for real-time collaboration with colleagues featuring inbuilt compliance and scalability to the entire estate.
  • View documents on any device (phone, tablet, PC) and even on devices without Office installed, thanks to Microsoft Web Apps, with guaranteed fidelity. This includes comments and revisions, tabulation and all fonts.

Practical healthcare provision happens away from the comfort of a desk: information is needed at the bedside, out in communities and across a wide and disjointed IT estate. You may still consider Microsoft Office to be ‘desktop’ software, but Excel 2013 makes data available wherever it is needed, on any device, to make the most of every opportunity for data-driven healthcare.

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By Nick Saalfeld
On behalf of the Microsoft in Health