Rescuing Healthcare Administration from Spreadsheets

The traditional spreadsheet – a classic, simple staple of healthcare administrations far and wide. Whether it be for assigning employee shifts, keeping track of patients, or reporting inventory, healthcare managers use spreadsheets for a wide range of jobs. While you are probably very familiar with the capabilities of spreadsheets, you may be unaware of just how limiting they can be. Could it be time to “rescue” your organization from the inefficiency of spreadsheets in favor of a more modern, adaptable data management approach?

Spreadsheet Setbacks

The first problem with replying on spreadsheets for managing important data is that spreadsheets exist in individual copies. This means that there is no one specific location at which to access the relevant data. As more and more people make copies of the spreadsheet, the more the data will be altered until there exists a variety of “copies” which may or may not contain consistent, accurate, and up-to-date information. This results in problems with team members having duplicate or updated data, which will create a myriad of issues down the line. For these reasons, it is best to find a “live” software solution – one which is more conducive to collaboration – to handle information.

Along those same lines, having to email or message a spreadsheet around to various members of a time poses a security risk. This becomes a problem when these spreadsheets contain personal information or private medical data. By contrast, many online platforms are log in/password protected and are held accountable for breaches through HIPAA.

Another difficulty with using spreadsheets as part of an organization is that spreadsheets are simply not built for teams. Aside from the aforementioned issues with duplicate copies, spreadsheets lack customizable permissioning features. Essentially, everyone has the same level of access to the information contained in a spreadsheet. In more advanced software solutions, the admin can assign various levels of access depending on a team member’s role. For example, let’s say you wanted managers to have complete access to all data in a file, but lower level employees to only see data pertinent to themselves. Typical spreadsheets do not allow for this distinction, prompting the need for a more advanced solution.

Mismanagement and Collaboration Issues

Finally, spreadsheets lack user-friendly features that make it difficult to manage data. For instance, with a traditional spreadsheet, there is no way to enforce data types, such as text, numbers, multichoice, etc. This can lead to numerous errors in data reporting, which is incredibly dangerous in healthcare organizations. According to a report by Hughes and Belgen, reporting errors contribute to medical error and are “a significant cause of morbidity and mortality.”

Additionally, spreadsheets are often more difficult to easily share than an online, collaborative platform would be. Out of the box data manipulation and reporting is frequently more limited in a typical spreadsheet software (think: Microsoft Excel) than with a cloud-based tool. Finally, spreadsheets lack the ability to create webforms for public data collections.

All in all, spreadsheets can quickly turn into an unproductive, disjointed, unorganized nightmare. This is especially troublesome for healthcare administrators for whom efficiency and accuracy are particularly crucial.

Case Study: Michael Garron Hospital

Prior to their no-code optimization update, the Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, Canada was using an incredibly outdated method of organization emergency employee redeployment in the beginning stages of the COVID-19. They were using numerous printed spreadsheets strewn about an empty conference room to try and keep track of employee assignments. Not only was it inefficient and time-consuming, but it did not give them an effective way of analyzing trends among their data. They needed an efficient solution and they needed it quickly.

The Solution? Cloud-Based Databases

Luckily, there’s some amazing modern solutions out there. For example, MGH partnered with – a data management software built specifically for healthcare administrators, with pre-built templates for staff deployment, HR workflows, and even vaccination rollouts. Smartsheet is another online data collaboration tool that features real-time reporting and multiple data views. Finally, Airtable is a relational database product that features fields for attachments as well as automations. 

Whatever your administrative needs may be, there is a simple, powerful online tool that will allow you to manage your databases and drop your outdated spreadsheets.