Data has become as important to healthcare providers as the latest medical journal or development in pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The industry has traditionally focused on reactive solutions to problems, like using statins to control high cholesterol. However, it is coming to the understanding that prediction and prevention of illness is more effective and cheaper than reactive cures.
An example is the developing concept of population health management (PHM). Providers work to keep people healthy in the first place rather than depend on expensive treatments such as acute care and emergency room visits. To make PHM work, providers depend on data collection and analysis. Beyond electronic healthcare records, organizations look to a range of data sources to build fuller patient records, with an emphasis on those who have chronic conditions for which advance treatment and management can provide significant return on investment.
But to make PHM and other approaches to anticipation and prevention work, providers need a more sophisticated approach to using data. Collection, analysis, and action must be as close to real-time as possible. Such capabilities represent a significant change for providers’ IT departments and how the organizations manage and use data. According to a Managed Healthcare Executive poll, which asked how well organizations use big data to reduce costs and improve the effectiveness of provided care, only 10 percent said “very well.” Some industry experts offered tips on improving data use.
Work with health plans
Healthcare plans have large amounts of data on their subscribers, including demographics, location, and procedure and diagnostic codes. Providers have clinical data. Combining the two can make identification and treatment of problems more effective. Providers should strive to create data partnerships with health plans to improve practice.
Involve the right people
A classic problem in obtaining data in any organization is getting people to seek and record it. Medical personnel are already busy and so collecting data can be seen as an additional professional burden. To gain cooperation, management must get doctors, nurses, technicians, and others to see the importance and the benefit of getting and recording the information. Shifting to a value-based compensation model can help because professionals then see how addressing inefficiencies and working more effectively has a personal impact on them.
Executives can easily misunderstand what current systems are capable of doing. High-level strategic planning needs to involve chief information officers and chief medical information officers who understand what parts of the problem are already addressed and what is still left to be done. There will also be a need for data experts with an understanding of both technology and business. Trusting automated tools alone is a mistake, as data may not mean what people assume it means.
Focus on the process and goals
Data analysis and management can seem overwhelming, especially with all the hype in the industry setting expectations. Moving to a data-centric approach will take time, so be patient and continue to focus on what you’re trying to achieve, not on the particulars of technology or the mass of data in question.
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