According to a January 2021 report from consulting firm Kaufman Hall, COVID-19 and the overall 2020 U.S. economic downturn didn’t substantially slow healthcare mergers and acquisitions (M&A). The pandemic, and its associated impact, appears to be a driver behind the active healthcare M&A market, suggesting that health system leaders, investors, and digital health companies will continue to seek partnerships for the foreseeable future.
The Kaufman Hall research suggests one way health systems are responding to COVID-19 is partnering with other organizations to build core business strengths, address gaps in care delivery the pandemic exposed, and enhance their resources to navigate current and future crises. For example, health systems will need capabilities to expand digital access, deliver data-driven care, address care equity and disparities in outcomes, and offer a broader range of care options to their communities.
Realizing the potential of emerging healthcare partnerships means organizations must operate in an open environment that facilitates data exchange, enables best of breed point solutions, and, as the ultimate aim, drives data-driven improvement in healthcare. Optimizing partnerships requires an open and scalable analytics infrastructure, plus a cultural and contractual mindset for innovation to flourish.
Partnering organizations often lock themselves into closed workflow frameworks (i.e., transactional tools) and/or restrictive contractual relationships. This approach can impede data exchange and, as a result, an organization’s innovative potential.
Open analytics platforms, such as the Health Catalyst Data Operating System (DOS™), are an open alternative to closed frameworks. Open platforms, like DOS, combine data from many proprietary source systems. As such, analytics platforms are inherently open and ensure agility and flexibility in all kinds of healthcare environments (e.g., financial, clinical, and operational), providing the optimal open framework to bring best-of-breed point solutions to market. Organizations that match a consolidating analytics architecture with a cultural mindset of agility and flexibility will realize the most transformative benefits of new partnerships and adapt to COVID-19-era uncertainty as well as imminent challenges.
Organizations historically purchased best-of-breed solutions from different vendors to meet specific needs. In the 1990s, best-of-breed architecture characterized healthcare as non-integrated systems that performed well in only a specialized area and were challenging to maintain.
To reduce maintenance needs and enable the electronic capture of care delivery activities, healthcare leaders then adopted monolithic single-vendor EHRs. These workflow systems soon proved to be inflexible in supporting analytic use cases and enabling best-of-breed point solutions. However, in the 2010s, the emergence of market-leading open-analytic platforms supported a resurgence of these best-of-breed applications—an environment that allows new partnerships and more innovation to occur.
The inherent flexibility of the open, integrated data infrastructure of an analytics platform allows integration and scaling at the application layer. Conversely, closed, or siloed, transactional systems don’t integrate or scale. Compared to the disparate transactional and workflow tools that defined the EHR era, integrating on top of an analytics platform is a more scalable way to scale and integrate best-of-breed solutions.
The EHR forces organizations to knit together siloed workflow solutions, locking them into those capabilities—whether they develop or acquire the new applications. With flexibility at the application layer, the open platform allows organizations to customize their analytics capabilities by picking the solutions that best serve their needs.
An open analytics platform must have the following fundamental components to deliver the required agility and flexibility to bring innovative solutions to market:
Organizations that have adopted an open analytics platform have the data operating advantage to form partnerships, efficiently bring best-of-breed solutions to market and realize the innovative potential of collaborations. Furthermore, an open framework avoids potential regulatory risks relative to the lack of data exchange, and most importantly, enables data-driven care and improved access for patients.
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