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Governance plan, buy-in are first steps towards data analytics

By Jennifer Bresnick

- As with every other change that has hit the healthcare industry in the past five years, truly meaningful, integrated clinical and financial data analytics isn’t something that can spring up overnight.  Developing a data capture and reporting infrastructure takes careful planning and a great deal of cooperation from the entire organization, top to bottom.

Shane Pilcher, Vice President at Stoltenberg Consulting, spoke to EHRintelligence about how organizations can invest in the initial foundation to build a successful analytics ecosystem that can cut costs and improve the quality of patient care.

What’s the business case for data analytics in healthcare?

Healthcare organizations know that they can’t do business as it’s always been done.  In the past, majority of those organizations have treated the business end of the hospital and the patient care end of the hospital as separate entities, which has led organizations to not really knowing what their costs are when providing care.

In today’s world of bundled payments, ACOs, and value-based purchasing, it’s critical to know exactly the cost of the care that you’re providing and how it relates to those patient outcomes.  Only then can you really identify areas where the cost can be decreased while yielding better care.  And now CMS is also focusing on the readmission rates and linking penalties to performance, which means that an organization has to identify the patients at risk for readmissions while they’re still in the bed.

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Providers have to take steps to ensure they provide the additional care and patient education needed to ensure the patient remains healthy after discharge.  That’s why organizations must become more reliant on their data.

How can providers begin their journey towards leveraging clinical and financial data?

The first thing they must do is identify their governance processes.  Who owns this information?  Who has access to it?  How do they make sure the data they’re collecting is there when they need it?  To answer these questions, organizations need to have a multidisciplinary team that’s responsible for not just knowing about governance, but also for leading business intelligence analytics.  It cannot be an IT-owned project.  It has to be an organization-owned project if you want to see results.

By bringing people in, it creates excitement as to what can possibly be done, and it also starts to empower other departments to start thinking about analysis and what kind of questions they want to be asking.  It’s also important that IT is only seen as the caretaker of the data, not the owner.  The IT department should be facilitating, not necessarily driving.  You need an overarching leadership team in place to ensure that analytics is seen as an organizational initiative.  Not developing this governance structure early enough in the process is a huge mistake.

What strategic questions do organizations need to ask themselves when building their governance plans?

When it comes to tools, providers should consider products that can give them the functionality that they need to answer the questions they’re asking today, but can also grow with them to continue answering those questions three years and five years down the road.  They have to be thinking three, five and maybe even ten years down the road in terms of what they anticipate their questions are going to be, so that they know they’re on the right track with collecting the data that’s going to answer them.

Even from the EHR perspective, this is where that long-term plan comes into play.  They know the type of questions that they’re looking for today.  They need to anticipate the type of questions they’re going to asking in the future.  But in most cases, you don’t know what you don’t know, so you’ve got to be as creative, as imaginative as you can today when you’re setting up your roadmap.  That’s going to give you the information that you need to start defining what used to be collected today in the EHR and what you need to grow.

How can providers ensure that the data they’re collecting is the data they need?

For analysis that can be dependable, it’s also important that the clinicians collect the data consistently and reliably.  The only way to accomplish that is by bringing their voice into the project.  Otherwise they see it as just another task they have to add to their already full schedule.  All they want to do is take care of their patients. But getting clinician feedback and understanding what their needs are will lead to better and more personalized patient care.  Helping clinicians to understand how data can be used to personalize a patient’s care and yield better outcomes will lead them to be more inclined to collect it more consistently and reliably.

Once you start moving down that road and picking up traction, you can start to identify that low-hanging fruit that can lead to cost savings and improve patient care.  These are cost savings that go directly to the bottom line of the organization and also show return on investment.  By being able to show ROI, the administration may be more inclined to invest more time, more labor, and more capital to further enhance the program and go after bigger and greater fruits.

Don’t wait too long to plan this out.  You need to start identifying low-hanging fruits as you’re developing your analytics initiatives so that you can start showing the benefit to the administration and the organization as a whole.  That way, you’re going to get more support as you want to develop your data analytics further.

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