Editor’s Note: This article is based on the Expert Dialogue Series: Revenue & Cost session at the 2022 Healthcare Analytics Summit. The panel consisted of Adam Smith, Vice President Decision Support and Financial Planning, Froedtert Health; Dan Unger, Senior Vice President and General Manager at Health Catalyst, Financial Transformation Business; Jim Balbach, Executive Director, Decision Support at Community Health Network; Migdalia Musler, Chief Operating Officer at University of Michigan Health System; and Mike Weed, Vice president, Financial Operations at INTEGRIS Health.
Leaders charged with decreasing healthcare costs and increasing revenues need strategies that don’t negatively impact care quality and patient outcomes. During the 2022 Healthcare Analytics Summit, experts recommended seven ways leaders could harness the power of actionable data to help achieve increased revenue and decreased healthcare costs without sacrificing care quality and outcomes.
Data empowers leaders to solve problems, identify opportunities, develop plans, and measure achievement—but only if organizations share the data across teams. Panelists recommended a democratic approach to data sharing, starting with healthcare executives and including practitioners and care teams. Data is an opportunity to partner with leaders responsible for revenues and costs and approach problems and opportunities collaboratively. By democratizing data access, data analysts can help leaders, practitioners, and care teams understand how to translate data trends and insights into their decision making and goal setting.
Collaborative partnerships between users and the data analytics team amplify motivation and drive organizational change. When organizational structures foster a collaborative, coordinated, and flexible partnership between the analytics team and business owners/stakeholders, that collaboration can increase ownership and accountability on both sides.
Finance, operations, and clinical domains often operate in silos, unaware of how decisions in one area impact the ability of others to reach their goals. Healthcare organizations need to coordinate data integration from these three domains to reveal interdependencies and align efforts. Organizations also need to blend quantitative with qualitative data to improve the veracity and organizational usefulness of the data[MJ4] .
“We need the qualitative components that leaders, providers, and patients can bring into our conversations,” said Adam Smith, Vice President Decision Support and Financial Planning, Froedtert Health. “While [quantitative] data is a strong indicator, incorporating patient, provider, and staff stories can illuminate hidden causal relationships and keep leaders from solving the wrong problems.”
Data literacy accelerates action, while a lack of understanding allows progress to stall. Panelists cautioned against assuming a level of data literacy across the organization. Health systems can improve data literacy by bringing in stakeholders early in the process and allowing subject matter experts identify issues and interdependencies. Panelists also recommended bolstering data literacy with a storytelling approach. Sharing stories that resonate with different user groups can increase understanding and motivation across the organization.
Powerful components of data storytelling are data visualizations and reporting. Visual storytelling transforms data into meaningful, actionable items that resonate with viewers. Panelists suggested that visual stories gain strength when storytellers tether quantitative and qualitative data together to explain outcomes.
Multiple panelists emphasized the importance of validating data, standardizing it, and establishing robust data governance to ensure data is accurate and trustworthy. Mike Weed, Vice president, Financial Operations at INTEGRIS Health commented, “You’ll always need to demonstrate the validity of your data. There is power in gathering the expertise of people from diverse backgrounds so that they support your findings and can help enforce them.”
It’s easy to get lost in the data and forget about the “why,” meaning the problems organizations are trying to solve. By staying focused on their why, organizations can navigate their way to the “how.” Then, as they work through the how, they can contextualize and improve their measures and drive change in their organizations.
Data can help identify strategies for maintaining care quality and outcomes while improving revenue and managing costs. The seven strategies above outline leveraging data to achieve organizational goals, including democratizing data and breaking down silos to integrate financial, operational, and clinical data; telling visual stories that blend quantitative with qualitative data; improving data literacy across the organization; and staying focused on the organization’s why.