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Developing your aims

To improve performance and make best use of your time, clear objectives must exist and the data that you collect should represent these objectives (Deroso & Petitti, 2003).

At this point think about what it is that you need to know.  What answers are you looking for?  And what problems do you want to solve?

Using the Framework will help you to select the area of measurement suited to your needs (see Stage 2) and the best OM for your purpose (see Stage 3).  However, before getting to this point it is a good idea to identify why you are collecting the data.  Is it to improve your patient centred care?  Is it to get an idea about the level of change that your patients have experienced as a result of your practice?  Or is it to look at the cost effectiveness of your service?

These are of course very broad examples – your purpose is likely going to be much more specific.  When you have identified why you are looking to collect data, write it down and keep it in an accessible place for future reference.  It is really easy to get sidetracked!  By keeping your ‘purpose’ and records to hand you are more likely to stay on track and get the answers that you need, rather than collecting lots of information that you don’t really need or want.  You should also write down a few aims – what are you looking to get from the project and why was it set up?  You should also think about any changes that you hope findings of the project may lead to – what do you expect will happen after the project and what do you want to achieve with it?  Write down these aims.  And remember to keep your aims quite narrow/close to the point – it is easy to get carried away and try to change the world, but you are more likely to achieve a number of small aims!

It is a good idea to keep regular records of what you are doing, your progress and any difficulties.  This can be on paper or on a computer.  This will help when it comes to reporting your findings and also will be useful if you are asked what you are doing – it will all be there at hand.  There are a number of really helpful resources on project planning out there already and these can be found in the Useful Links page if you think you need more guidance.

Do you really need to collect new data?
Another thing to consider at this stage is: do you really need to collect new data?  Consider what data is already being routinely collected.  Can that information be used to give you the answers you need?  And if so, do you have access to it?  Sometimes, due to Data Protection or other reasons, information that you may want to access is not available to everyone – if in doubt, ask your administrator/secretary.

If you can use routinely collected data to get your answers – great!  It will save you from collecting unnecessary data, improving the efficiency of your service.

If you do need to collect new data, don’t worry!  It can be a really interesting and sometimes fun experience.  It is better to have information that answers you question fully than to only be able to report some of the necessary information.  And, remember, the stages of the Framework will guide and support you through the process!

Click to move onto 'Who you are collecting data for?'


© Copyright 2012 NMAHP RU, Stirling University