The future looks bright for advanced analytics as healthcare leaders converge at HFMA ANI

Andrew Slotnick

One of the many things that I love about conferences like HFMA ANI, is that I get to hear extremely smart and experienced leaders address wildly complex issues in ways that only really smart and experienced people can, simply. Analytics is a hot topic this week in Orlando and although the analytics have matured greatly from basic reporting, operationalizing predictive and prescriptive solutions still depends on a clear account of the past.

Let’s take a step away from healthcare and technology and into everyday life for a second, where encounters, decisions and intuition happen all the time with and without the benefit of advanced technology. For example, last Tuesday I woke up and it was pouring rain, so I knew that my commute would be longer than normal because traffic in New England moves slower when it rains than under other conditions. A coworker of mine, who just re located from the Southwest, hit the road without that historical knowledge and was 90 minutes late due to traffic delays. Based on an external stimulus, the rain, I was able to predict bad traffic and leave earlier than normal but she was not. No application, gadget or news report told me to leave early. In fact I barely even thought about it, I just did it.

My example is basic and as a supporter of technology and its application to improve human judgment, I probably should have quickly checked Waze before leaving, just to make sure an overturned cranberry truck hadn’t completely shut down my route to work, or something very unexpected like that. (Cranberries are out of season)

Healthcare has historically been sheltered from massive and acute change. Changing payment models, code sets and technology standards however are forcing healthcare executives to navigate change now more and more quickly than ever before. Will I be ready for ICD-10? Why am I seeing so many claims denials? Do I have the right population for risk sharing? What can I do to improve care for my sickest patient populations? How do I formalize better decisions to provide better care for less money?

These are some of the questions being addressed this week by thought leaders like the CEO of Cost of Care, Neel Shah MD., futurist and economist Ian Morrison and high performing organizations like Orlando Health. There are so many applications of advanced technology, analytics and big data that my top takeaway, regarding the need for historical perspective when applying an analytics-enabled strategy is that it must support a specific organizational priority or core value.

Simply saying that advanced analytics can solve all of your claims denials, for the rest of eternity, for example would not be an advisable approach. Identifying that rising claims denials are negatively impacting your cost conscious organizations’ profitability however, represents a much more fruitful approach for the application of analytics. Just think, if my co-worker had checked her whether app this morning and it said “chance of rain – traffic normal,” she would have felt really good about her chance of an on time arrival, but without enabling the location settings on her phone, the technology would not have changed her unfortunate outcome. Take away number two – using technology, blindly is not the answer, but when chosen wisely, with end goals and outcomes in mind, advanced technology like analytics can be very powerful, and the more aware you are of your historical performance, the more likely you are to choose the right technology for a brighter future.

My final takeaway is around using advanced technology to drive change. The most difficult obstacle an organization will face en route to better outcomes is managing change. That concept has been validated more times than I can count this week at HFMA ANI, but most notably by Thursday’s dynamite keynote speaker @PeterGSheahan, founder of ChangeLabs. Human behavior is deeply route in historical bias and experience, unlearning is harder than learning Sheahan told the crowd, and for that reason exactly, healthcare struggles with change management as much if not more than any industry. While routed in legacy workflows and slow to change, evidence based decision making has been a corner stone for new thinking in healthcare however. Therefore, analytics, have a uniquely bright future as a vehicle to drive change. Both the advanced technology and the (clinical and financial) outcomes unlocked by the power of descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics have the ability to demonstrate evidence of value very quickly. From low hanging fruit within the revenue cycle to deeply rooted process improvement needs to address population health and payment reform, the evidence and enthusiasm supporting advanced analytics was front and center this week at HFMA ANI.

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