A Guide to Successful Outcomes Using Population Health Analytics

and may fix the code—this is all documented, of course. Finally, once all the bugs are worked out, the customer can actually use the software and realize some value from it. This waterfall process produces significant documentation about a system that doesn’t really work.

A more effective way—the agile approach seen in figure 20—lets the clinicians who will be using the system see it in development on a weekly basis. It relies on flexible tools so the developers can make adjustments and provide information while the kinks are being worked out. Each release results in value for the customer. This approach is about working software, not comprehensive documentation. Technical staff using agile principles can provide value from the very beginning and help keep momentum around improvement efforts.

Waterfall approach vs agile approachFigure 20: Software Development: Traditional, Waterfall Approach vs. Agile Approach

Accelerated Practices Training

Finally, clinicians, technical team members, and organizational leaders will need advanced training to add skills and capabilities to accelerate outcomes improvements. Three types of training are particularly important.

The first type of training an organization should do is an immersive quality training program. This program, targeted at those who will be training others, can be taught two to three days a month for multiple months. It should cover quality improvement theory and include an actual project with a two to four person team.

Next, executive training will teach the executive team how hard it is to improve outcomes—and how important it is—if they do not already know. This program should cover high-level principles and give executives knowledge about the tools needed to drive long-term success.

Finally, just-in-time training programs are 10 to 15-minute modules used with an individual team working on a specific problem. These programs should be available to clinical, technical, and operational team members.


To drive scalable and sustainable outcomes improvement in population health, a healthcare organization needs to address all three questions with systematic approaches: What to do (best practices)? How is the organization performing (analytics)? And, how does the organization transform (adoption)?

As shown in figure 21, without all three, an organization has no chance at real, enterprise-wide improvement. For example, an organization that only has best practices is essentially an academic repository with no real practical application of those improvements. With only adoption, the organization falls victim to the dreaded “flavor of the month” syndrome, where clinicians (who see no evidence about best practices and have no way to measure progress) quickly disengage. If it has only the analytics and best practices, the organization is really good at one-off, siloed departments of excellence (science projects), but cannot spread that excellence across the entire organization. And as a final example, an organization with only the adoption and the best practices is missing the ability to automatically measure and track progress. Sustainable improvement becomes impossible.

Missing Three IngredientsFigure 21: What Happens When Any One of the Three Systems Is Missing in an Improvement Effort

To re-visit the fire analogy, all three—fire, oxygen, and fuel—can create an improvement fire to ignite scalable, sustainable change in an organization working on improving its population health management.


Health Catalyst is a mission-driven data warehousing and analytics company that helps healthcare organizations of all sizes perform the clinical, financial, and operational reporting and analysis needed for population health and accountable care. Our proven enterprise data warehouse (EDW) and analytics platform helps improve quality, add efficiency and lower costs in support of more than 50 million patients for organizations ranging from the largest US health system to forward-thinking physician practices.

For more information, visit www.healthcatalyst.com, and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn,and Facebook.


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