For healthcare organizations and IT vendors, developing successful data and analytics products for the healthcare setting requires more than simply building a robust product offering. While health systems prioritize products—either built in house or purchased from a vendor—that help them deliver the best care at the lowest cost, IT vendors strive to create products that streamline care delivery processes and remove roadblocks.
Whether a health system or a healthcare vendor, Anne Marie Bickmore, Chief Product Officer at Health Catalyst, says the same product principles apply—a strong product portfolio prioritizes patients and is much more than a laundry list of an organization’s offerings. With deep clinical expertise from years working in various nursing roles, including an emergency room (ER) nurse, combined with more than 12 years working for different IT vendors, Bickmore understands the vendor and clinical needs behind products to truly transform patient care.
The journey to create effective products in an evolving healthcare market is complex. In response to these constant—and sometimes unpredictable (e.g., a pandemic)—market changes, Bickmore suggests vendors and healthcare organizations consider four aspects throughout the development and acquisition process that support high-value offerings, keep patients at the center of care, and accelerate improvements.
First, Bickmore says organizations must build high-quality products on a high-quality data foundation. More important than the product itself is the foundation—if teams build offerings on disparate source systems, they are limited to inaccurate or incomplete data. Building products with partial data leaves providers and vendors short of achieving their goals to purchase, leverage, or create effective healthcare products and requires duplicate work to compensate for the fragmented development phase. A strong foundation includes a robust data infrastructure that can ingest data from multiple sources outside of the traditional EHR to include claims, billing, and costing data, to name a few.
Gathering data from only a few sources can provide some relevant information and enable a product’s partial benefits, but the risks outweigh the limited advantages. Building products based on fragmented information limits each product’s capabilities to deliver the most accurate insight and guidance for healthcare improvement. Furthermore, making healthcare decisions based on partial insights puts a health systems’ operations and financial state at risk and jeopardizes patient health.
By contrast, building products on a robust data infrastructure that combines all data sources provides a complete picture of performance (whether clinical or administrative) and allows team members to fully maximize their products and make the best care decision for every patient.
In a constantly changing industry, a strong data foundation allows healthcare organizations to swiftly respond to market changes and adjust their products, applications, and services as needed. For example, when the COVID-19 pandemic took health systems (and the world) by surprise, organizations with products built on a strong analytics foundation could quickly alter their existing products to meet the new pandemic needs. Meanwhile, other health systems lacking a strong analytics foundation had to rebuild their data sources before they could change their products.
Every product, application, or service should keep the patient at the center. Bickmore says remembering the patient throughout the product development process is key to making effective products. Although clinical-focused products might seem more focused on the patient, Bickmore says that operational and business applications are also patient-centric because they keep hospital doors open, allowing patients to access high-quality healthcare.
With a breadth of experience as an ER nurse, Bickmore says a clinical perspective is critical to creating practical products for the clinical setting. It is easy to get caught up in building a product that looks high-tech with fancy features, but if the application isn’t useful, it is a waste of time and resources. To ensure care and administrative teams will use products, product development leaders must be able to envision the product in the day-to-day clinical or business setting. Knowledge about hospital processes allows teams to develop products that can provide multiple benefits, such as alleviating provider burnout while eliminating duplicate steps to submit quality measures.
Healthcare experts often comment on the lack of data as a primary problem for underperforming products that can result in worse care or health decline that could have been prevented. However, with so much data available to healthcare organizations and vendors, Bickmore says that there is an opportunity to create better products. By taking the four-pronged approach above, leaders can develop products that maximize health systems’ data, meet providers’ needs, and empower providers to deliver high-value, tailored care.
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