Beyond Healthcare Dashboards: Deeper Decision Support

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Dashboards and measures have become commonplace in hospitals because health systems want to measure and track performance. For many health systems, healthcare dashboards are indispensable, particularly in outcomes improvement work. Dashboards give organizations a clear picture of how they’re performing in all metrics, so they know which areas to target for improvement. These visual reporting systems establish a single source of truth throughout an organization, allowing all relevant users—from executives to frontline clinicians—to view the same data.

Today, however, healthcare dashboards are starting to fail the systems they were built to serve. As data-driven decision making grows, with more access to data, the healthcare industry is outgrowing dashboards. Health system needs for faster, real-time reporting and customized, self-service functionality are driving the development of new solutions. Novel executive decision support systems, such as Health Catalyst®’s Leading Wisely, are taking over where dashboards fall short.

The Traditional Functions of a Healthcare Dashboard

The key visual element of a dashboard layout is information that’s easy to understand. It shows a variety of data:

  • Health system trends.
  • How the system is doing over a period.
  • Where the system stands in relation to overall system targets.
  • Specific measures the system agrees to share in a dashboard.

Why Healthcare Today Needs More than Dashboards and Static Reports

Initially, the healthcare industry touted dashboards for their ability to provide insights (actionable information)—not just data that users still need to interpret. As health systems’ capacity to manage data grows, however, organizations need more efficient and agile tools to leverage the wealth of information.

In today’s healthcare environment, traditional dashboards can hinder the performance they’re designed to boost:

Dashboards are time consuming

In most third-party dashboards, someone in IT needs to map data from the data source (e.g., the EHR) to the dashboard. This requires an additional step and additional support from various full-time equivalent contributors along the way, and adds time and variability to the request.

Dashboard data can have too much variation

Dashboards can present different and conflicting data from reports, leading time, or numbers on separate reports for the same measure. Dashboards may lack the standardization needed for swift interventions.

Dashboards are not self-service

The person who builds the dashboard (usually IT) may create it specifically for one group or individual, but another user or group may not be able to customize it to their needs, creating a proliferation of dashboards in an organization. A more effective solution provides customizable measures for any user.

It’s Time for Innovative Healthcare Decision Support

Today, following a single KPI trend requires a healthcare leader to analyze hundreds of reports. That executive needs an efficient, self-service tool to leverage the information they need, when they need it, in a form they can use (actionable insights versus cumbersome data). Leading Wisely answers this need with an innovative approach to decision support that brings users more targeted insights and efficiency than dashboards.

Several features distinguish Leading Wisely (Figure 1) from a healthcare dashboard:

  • Customizable—The individual user can uniquely tailor measures.
  • Proactive alerts—Personalized notifications (measures the user selects) in a visually pleasing format, including notifications if a selected measure is getting notably off track.
  • User-friendly overview—Easy-to-read highlights that indicate if select measures are moving in the right or wrong direction—including how far from a goal a measure has gone astray, and if the organization has met its goals and system targets.

Figure 1 Leading Wisely’s user-friendly format

Unlike standard industry dashboards or static reports, Leading Wisely turns health systems’ data (the raw numbers) into insights (the product of data analysis). (Dashboards can also generate insights, but they tend to be buried visually and are harder to recognize.) Highly recognizable insights give healthcare leaders the foresight to deal with unexpected challenges, thanks to proactive alerts (e.g., texts and email) and on-screen notifications, which the user sets. It’s a self-service, flexible tool that allows leaders to set an upper or lower limit and threshold (e.g., when the measure hits its upper control limits) for each measure.

Three Important Strengths of Leading Wisely

Leading Wisely adds three key strength to healthcare decision making:

  1. Turns Data into Insights

Leading Wisely turns data into insights by leveraging the EDW to pull and measure data faster than a healthcare dashboard. It can do balanced measures (outcomes measures, process measures, and composite measures) that are important to the user, instead of grooming through three different reports or different dashboards and interpreting them. Leading Wisely puts critical data front and center, so leaders always know, in near real time, what’s happening in their organizations.

  1. Improves Access to Data

Leading Wisely puts data in the hands of more users, compared to traditional dashboards. Leading Wisely can leverage the disparate data—utilizing the Health Catalyst Analytics Platform and other sources, such as Excel or other databases. Leading Wisely enables data access beyond the EDW and BI teams, to clinical analysts and process improvement specialists.

  1. Is Truly Self Service

Leading Wisely is a more efficient, self-service decision support system than a traditional dashboard. Adding a measure to a traditional dashboard requires the user to submit a ticket (where it can sit in the queue for months), which is then eventually assigned to an IT analyst to build. When the measure finally shows up in the dashboard, it’s often not in the right format and must go back to IT (several times, in many cases). By the time the first measure is done, the dashboard user may have moved on to the next measure or need to change the system targets or goals.

Leading Wisely, on the other hand, gets the measure in front of users in mere days or, sometimes, hours. The user controls the goals and sets what is meaningful to them. For example, a director over the ICU will have a different average length of stay (LOS) goal from a director over the medical floors, while both are contributing to the overall system target. Similarly, once an individual’s alerts are set up, the user does not have to look at anything until an alert is triggered, eliminating conversations about why the user wasn’t notified sooner.

Leading Wisely: New Capabilities on the Horizon

Leading Wisely is an important leap forward from dashboards, with even more capabilities on the horizon:

  • Additional chart types—Leading Wisely will add bullet and radar charts, and charts that cover multiple dimensions.
  • Advanced filters—More advanced filters will make it easier to drill down to precise insights. For example, a health system will be able to look directly at blood utilization to see who’s using it, without going through multiple pages.
  • Enhanced configurability—Leading Wisely currently configures with cards first, then charts. With enhanced configurability, users will be able to drag and drop information anywhere they want on the screen.
  • Enhanced collaboration—Leading Wisely’s note and sticky wall feature will be a boon to improvement teams, particularly when it comes to transparency. The sticky wall feature will resemble Facebook’s notes function, in which a user can share a note to a group. Leaders will be able to broadcast messages to several people (who are monitoring that measure) at once.
  • Predictive analytics integration—The enhanced ability to trend and forecast directionality of a measure.
  • Access to more data sources—Leading Wisely will be able to get data from sources other than Excel or SQL databases, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) that’s not in the enterprise data warehouse (EDW) (e.g., Oracle’s ERP Cloud).
  • Enhanced Project Management integration—Improvement teams and leaders can track progress on initiatives outside of system measures.

Effective Decision Support for a Data-Rich World

As healthcare leaders increasingly rely on data (and a lot of it) to improve patient care, innovative decision support is a strategic imperative. Leading Wisely is that solution. It’s a real-time, user-friendly, collaborative tool that puts key performance measures and goals in front of the user, provides a systemwide source of truth, and facilitates notifications, alerts, and communication.

Additional Reading

Would you like to learn more about this topic? Here are some articles we suggest:

  1. Leading Wisely: Better Executive Decision Support
  2. Self-Service Hospital Reporting Possibilities: Enabling Clinicians to Make Faster and More Informed Decisions
  3. 5 Reasons Healthcare Data Is Unique and Difficult to Measure
  4. Healthcare Visualizations: Are You Getting the Entire Story?
  5. Healthcare Dashboards: 3 Keys for Creating Effective and Insightful Executive Dashboards

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