Analytics or Outcomes: What’s really important?

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Information technology within the healthcare industry has been evolving in recent years. What began as a digitization of health information is shifting toward the sharing and analyzing of health information. The analyzing portion of this evolution is getting a lot of buzz. For instance a quick search on GoogleTM using the keywords “healthcare analytics” pulls up a whopping 45 million results. To put that in perspective, Justin Bieber, the second most followed person on TwitterTM received 75 million results on a GoogleTM search. Bieber wins this competition but as you can see healthcare analytics is nearly as cool as an award winning teenage heart throb.

In many ways, the buzz around healthcare analytics reflects the newness of potential capabilities to extract and review digitized data. The promise of analytics seems to be at the core of enabling population health, clinical decision support, ACOs, and the like. However, the buzz so often focuses on the process and technology of what’s hot rather than, in my opinion, the mission and purpose of healthcare analytics – analysis of health information to deliver financial, operational, and care quality outcomes.

Given the excitement and anxiety surrounding analytics, it’s not hard to feel tempted to focus on the “how” of analytics versus the “why”. The potential pitfalls of focusing on the how before the why is that we create an analytics mechanism to deliver insights for something that isn’t a problem.

In the US, the problems or why’s to me are:

  • Healthcare Costs Continue to Rise
  • Health Provider Revenue is Flattening
  • Care Quality Improvements are not Inline with Expenditures

Insight from digitized health information data that help’s providers improve any of these areas should be the prioritized focus. As a first step toward achieving success around these outcome areas, we should consider focusing on contained units within the system. For instance and as a closing perspective, for hospital perioperative departments a primary challenge is measuring and tracking profitability for an individual procedure and would seem to be a fairly simple performance metric. However, if you asked a perioperative department manager whether it was more profitable to execute a knee surgery or a back surgery would they have access to the analytics to provide insight on this important financial outcome? I hope so but likely not. Each hospital, physician’s office, and outpatient facility is seeking answers to resolving these core problems and the focus of analytics should be to help them do just that.

 


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