Every hospital and health system juggles significant IT needs with a limited budget. Innovative solutions and advanced analytics are constantly available—with the potential of making care delivery or operations more efficient and more accurate. In the middle of these demands and possibilities, hospital executives decide which technology solutions are the most critical to the health of their organization.
I call these most critical IT solutions “survival software.” It started with an attempt to reduce the burden of manual data processes and has now taken the form of advanced analytics.
Much of yesterday’s survival software was deployed to automate manual processes in the operational areas of a facility. Over the past 30 years, organizations have implemented software to manage such areas as patient flow, billing, finance, HR, claims, revenue cycle, and time tracking. These solutions provided a foundation that helps hospitals understand their operations more fully.
More recently, data acquisition solutions have filled the role of must-have survival software. Of course, the biggest of these data-acquisition investments by far has been the electronic health record (EHR). Thanks to major government incentives and requirements attached to EHR use, most providers—in both the acute and ambulatory space—have accelerated efforts to digitize clinical documentation.
Do these examples of past and current survival software constitute a wise investment? Absolutely. Will they be sufficient for healthcare organizations to survive in an industry evolving toward value-based care? The answer is no. Healthcare organizations must be smarter to survive in the new reimbursement environment—and this requires advanced analytics.
In terms of the sophistication of analytics adoption in the United States, most organizations are at the lowest level of the Healthcare Analytics Adoption Model–a level characterized by patchworked point solutions provided by numerous vendors, with each solution addressing only one specific analytics need. The patchwork-solution level can be very expensive to maintain and produces inconsistency in reports as each point solution is capable of generating reports with only its own data and in its own style. The problems are exacerbated because the point solutions can’t and don’t talk to one another—a system like this is incapable of supporting longitudinal, enterprise-wide analytics.
Ideally, these organizations will progress from point solutions to an analytic framework that will allow them to systematically move through the phases of analytics adoption so they can perform and/or produce increasingly advanced analytics:
Advanced analytics solutions are the survival software of the near future. For the most part, however, healthcare organizations have made only minor investments in this infrastructure—though this trend is changing rapidly.
Healthcare systems that have invested in a complete framework for advanced analytics have yielded impressive results. Examples include Intermountain Healthcare, The Mayo Clinic, and Dartmouth. These analytics pioneers had to invest in and create their own advanced analytics platforms because no sufficient solution was commercially available.
Luckily, commercial solutions are now available that enable organizations to adopt advanced analytics without creating their own platform from the ground up. These solutions include the Health Catalyst® Data Operating System (DOS™), which combines the features of data warehousing, clinical data repositories, and health information exchanges in a single, vendor-agnostic, common-sense technology platform. Many organizations—like Texas Children’s Hospital, Acuitas Health, and Allina Health—are leveraging such products to quickly establish a complete framework for advanced analytics.
These organizations are already:
These organizations are, in short, moving steadily toward achieving the Triple Aim—reducing cost, improving outcomes and improving the patient experience—while maintaining their own financial health.
Investing in an advanced analytics framework is something that should begin today. Survival in the near future of healthcare will depend on it.