Healthcare Organizations Leverage Data to Improve Operations for the Next Normal

June 29, 2020 | Article

Healthcare organizations play an incredibly important role in our country—a sentiment that we’ve all been abruptly reminded of in recent months. As the healthcare industry combats issues brought on by the pandemic, they also continue to face challenges that preceded the virus, like balancing patient needs and managing overhead costs.

With more constraints on bandwidth and autonomy than ever before, there is a new urgency for healthcare organizations to work smarter, not harder. That’s where leveraging data comes in. The right technology and data, can help hospitals and medical practices navigate operational costs, find real-time solutions and improve the patient experience with greater accuracy and expedience than before.

Utilize your data to build innovation in your healthcare organization.

Leverage the Right Data

Hospitals have never lacked data. The issue lies in finding the right data and having the right technology to leverage it effectively. A surprising number of hospitals have never put the necessary processes, infrastructure or systems in place to identify relevant data.

The key is to build the right systems and gain expertise that allows you to delve deep into your data and enact meaningful change. For many hospitals, the piles of “dark data” that go unused are the key to unlocking valuable insights for operational efficiency. To fix the problem, many organizations choose to embrace new technology. But without a solid data plan in place, hospitals and medical practices will continue to spew out data with no actionable next steps. Technology should be harnessed to organize data, and then shine a light on the data that is most useful to the health organization at hand. Taking the initial step to identify relevant data allows organizations to form intelligent data processes.

One of Eide Bailly’s recent projects demonstrates just how valuable leveraging the right data can be. A health system wanted to evaluate the performance and workflows of their providers to understand the current capacity for hiring. To achieve this, they utilized RTLS or real-time location services that tracked the movement of their providers within their organization. To evaluate performance, they measured how much time was being spent with a patient vs. any time spent elsewhere not providing value, dubbed “value-added patient time.” After tracking providers’ movement, it was clear who was providing the best care and who could improve.

Additionally, this data allowed the health system to discover that by improving their value-added patient time, they could accomplish the same amount of care with fewer providers than they were currently operating with. This new insight leveraged from RTLS data meant the health system now had key information required to make decisions for their new building, as well as change operations to run more effectively in their existing buildings. The outcome has allowed this organization to see the direct impact data can have on their business and now they are vigilant for new ways to measure their capabilities with data.

“Hospitals’ problem isn’t a lack of data; it’s finding the right data, putting the information in front of the right people at the right time and knowing how to use it to get results.”
- Jon Ault, Fierce Healthcare

Find Your Key Leading Indicators

When so much can be measured, it can be hard to know what is actually worth measuring. The key is identifying your organization’s leading indicators. Once identified, data becomes its most powerful by interpreting those key leading indicators and in turn, driving effective business decisions. This means exploring more than just a hospital’s or medical practice’s financial statements. While financial statements provide a view of what has happened during a prior period, leading indicators and operational analytics allow us to see real-time insight into performance and operations. In fact, operational analytics can even predict what will happen before month end.

Eide Bailly’s Data Analytics team helped an assisted living facility leverage available Medicare data to improve their key performance indicators. Certainly, physicians want to discharge patients to assisted living facilities with the best key performance indicators. Therefore, in order to receive the most business and compete with other facilities in the market, this organization needed to compare their KPIs with the competing options.

Government-provided Medicare data is readily available, which allowed this care facility to compare its performance against competitors at the county, region, state and national levels. By leveraging Medicare data, they were able to make precise and effective changes in their business model to improve efficiency, retain current patients and obtain more business. Not to mention, it solidified KPI’s to benchmark their performance in the future and provided a more narrow, purposeful focus for their data analysis moving forward.

Remember the Importance of Population Health

The importance of population health has been further exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. According to Managed Healthcare Executive, “there’s nothing like a contagion to shine a light on the importance of putting patient data into actional profiles so care providers can improve clinical interventions and financial outcomes for different patient risk segments.”

Taking a data-driven approach toward population health and investing in “big data” will provide your health system with:

  • Analytics to manage your system’s patients and improve patient outcomes
  • Ability to identify high-risk patient populations where additional intervention is required
  • Better monitoring and proactive management of your quality of care as patients (and payors) continue to demand increased value

Embrace Business Intelligence

Business intelligence has become an increasingly popular way to harness the power of data analytics and drive process improvement. When it comes to how care is delivered, the main goal across most organizations is to improve the cost, quality of care and the patient experience simultaneously.

Becoming operationally intelligent and targeting changes based on better data analytics and visuals can help achieve these goals. For example, our firm worked with a group of critical access hospitals in Michigan to improve performance by implementing data transparency with their peers. With the assistance of Eide Bailly, data was sent from each hospital (within a cohort of about 20 hospitals), aggregated and then redistributed. Post data transformation, the result was a business intelligence report that each hospital could access to see how they’re performing compared to their group’s designated peers.

Through the dissemination of key performance indicators measured against peer results, each hospital now has the information it needs to justify improvement on operations where it was previously believed to require none. This particular data journey harnessed disparate data sources and combined results into a concise business intelligence report that was easily accessible to all hospitals in the cohort. The report gave all participating hospitals the insight needed to improve operations with little time required from their staff.

Simultaneously working to improve cost, quality of care and patient experience is virtually impossible without leveraging data. It is also virtually impossible to act on without a means of interpreting and presenting insights from said data. That is why business intelligence played such an integral role in the use case above, and it continues to be an area of investment for most cutting-edge organization in the healthcare industry.

How do you start?

  • Review data from system: What reports are useful? What kind of reporting would be better?
  • Understand the data sources.
  • Ask: How can you expand the context of that data (improve visualizations)?
  • Develop a process that mobilizes operational data into actionable steps that front-line care providers can do.
  • Continuously educate your staff.

Why You Need to Consider Your Data

Determining what data is pertinent saves time. Identifying KPIs provides more focus for care, and leveraging business intelligence allows for efficient process improvement. These are just a few of the reasons why it is worthwhile to consider how your data can work for you. By using the data your organization already has plus implementing the right technology, it is possible to improve operations, save time and make lasting change in your health organization with relatively little investment.

At a time when the healthcare industry can use all of the help it can get, data is there to answer the call. Coupling data with the right business intelligence tools can help engage staff and allow innovation to find its path into care processes.


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