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Systemic lead indicators of future performance an emerging opportunity for health system improvement

Updated: Feb 2, 2022

Richard Barber presented on systemic lead indicators at the Qld Health System Performance Reporting (SPR) Conference (8th-10th Aug 18). 

The conference was strongly focused on understanding health and wellness as a complex whole system and the use of systems thinking approaches to performance.   This is great news.  No longer are we debating whether we should be working on whole systems – the question now is ‘how’, not ‘why’. 

There was also a focus on the need for high quality data and analysis, together with integration of outcomes and breaking down of the many silos of thinking and decision making.  Again, these are important themes for action and improvement.

In its presentation RiskIQ provided senior leaders with a new, emerging perspective on system feedback and performance.   Most current performance feedback is reliant on lag indicators (outputs and outcomes).  These have limitations as predictors of future performance in a changing, complex world.  They are also symptomatic: they do not tell us what we must do to sustainably lift performance.

RiskIQ’s proposition was that we also need to understand, monitor and make use of deeper, systemic indicators of health system capability and viability for meeting emerging needs. These are lead indicators of how well the system will perform in future.    An example of a systemic lead indicator is how well health, education, housing and other elements of Queensland’s health ecosystem work proactively and collaboratively to share information and resources for best overall outcomes.

Systemic lead indicators of performance were explored by the conference survey conducted by RiskIQ.  The results are now being collated and analysed with the help of SPR Branch.  This is just a first step in a new conversation about the performance of large systems.  It illustrates the value that systems thinking professionals can offer, as catalysts of new approaches and paradigms for performance.

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