3 Rules for Utilizing Hospital-Gathered Health Data More Effectively
So your healthcare organization is collecting and storing reams of patient data. Now what do you do? How do you classify and analyze it? How do you make sense of it all?
It’s a common predicament hospitals, health insurers and provider groups face. The volume and pace at which information comes in the door can be completely overwhelming.
Reconnecting input with performance improvement.
With their roots in the non-profit sphere, many US healthcare organizations have struggled with marketing and business performance improvement. Other institutional concerns have, in the past, held a larger share of administrators’ attention than innovation, profitability optimization and consumer loyalty.
Now that the industry is feeling the pressure to become more cost efficient and consumer-centric, healthcare executives need deeper insights into their organizations’ effectiveness.
There’s no question that Big Data offers tremendous promise for the healthcare industry in that regard. But executives often find they need a tool that can give them actionable insights into their patient consumer populations. As contributor Warren Strauss recently noted in FierceHealthcare, “organizing the data and producing models of the results is slow; it can take up to seven quarters to get the comparative data back for benchmarking purposes.”
Given the tremendous pressure healthcare organizations are under from payers, patients, the government and the market itself to become leaner, better deliverers of care, a 7 quarter gap between input and result realization is challenging.
“With this much of a time lag,” Strauss wrote, “it is very difficult to link specific policies and procedures to outcomes in order to recommend changes.”
Today, let’s examine the 3 rules around which your organization could first establish its data analysis framework, then use on a continuing basis to realize better patient engagement, improve care outcomes and become nimbler in the increasingly competitive healthcare market.
Activate your patient data with psychographics.
Marketers in other industries know that data-driven decisions are more precise, more easily measured and more profitable. Using psychographic data to develop an accurate profile of a customer and of his or her communication preferences allows messaging to be more timely, more on target and in a manner that makes it easier for the consumer to act. This is because psychographics focus on a consumer’s preferences and personalities, allowing a marketer or clinician to customize engagement accordingly.
The healthcare industry isn’t like other industries, though. Unlike retail, or other service industries (of which healthcare is most definitely one), success in healthcare isn’t measured solely in terms of net revenue, but in the efficacy of the services delivered.
That’s why solid patient activation and patient engagement rates are such sought-after goals now. Engaged, motivated patients, the prevailing wisdom says, will take on more responsibility than disengaged patients for achieving successful treatment outcomes. They’re better self-managers.
But patient activation is dependent first upon data activation.
In the Harvard Business Review, Powers, et al., suggested that data mining and analysis should represent a natural progression for healthcare organizations now that electronic medical records and data capture have become the norm. But they also criticized the industry’s relatively slow adoption rate.
“Despite their broad applicability, these types of strategies and insights from service industries are underutilized by health care systems,” they asserted. “One reason is providers have been reluctant to see health care as a service industry. Only by accepting the reality that it is one can providers learn from the successes of others in the field. And there is plenty to learn.”
A robust psychographic analysis tool, like c2b’s powerful Insights Accelerator, is just the sort of edge that providers could use. With it, you could turn your organization’s collected patient data into points by which to refine your organization’s patient engagement strategy.
Psychographic insights can help you devise more effective patient engagement tactics by helping your marketing and clinical teams to make more informed assumptions about your constituent healthcare consumers, uncover hidden patterns in patient data, improve services, and deliver more effective, less costly messaging and care.
Establish clear parameters for who will have access to patient-consumer data.
It’s one thing to have data. It’s another to have data stored and organized in single location. And it’s still another to set quality control gatekeepers for that data.
“It makes sense to have one copy of everything, rather than 50 different copies that change all the time and no two people are looking at the same thing," Geisinger Health System’s Chief Data Officer, Dr. Nicholas Marko, told HealthcareITNews.
The stakes are too high in healthcare to allow the left hand not to know what the right is doing. And that’s not just due to HIPAA and other healthcare consumer privacy protections — it’s because close alignment between the C-Suite members (and between lower-level clinical, support and marketing staffers) is a necessity for providers that need to reduce waste.
By centralizing your organization’s data, establishing clear reporting expectations, and funneling access through responsible, organized managers, data entropy can be reduced.
That’s said, there’s one rather large caveat: gatekeepers cannot be allowed to become barriers to organizational effectiveness. They must be chosen not according to seniority or jurisdiction, but by ability to recognize, report and respond to fast-developing business or clinical needs.
To that end, Marko recommended healthcare organizations look to strike a balance between centralization and federalization — that is, establishing semi-autonomous data nodes that can assure quality in data collection and storage, react prudently and somewhat independently to changing business conditions or fast-moving clinical needs, but also communicate transparently and proactively with each other.
Don’t fall into the dashboarding trap.
Any good pilot can tell you: flying a plane isn’t as simple as watching an instrument panel and making inputs based on the readouts presented there. Safe flying is dependent upon total situational awareness, the sum total of the pilot’s experience and a deep understanding of the capabilities of the aircraft. So why, in a safety-dependent industry like healthcare, do so many hospitals, provider organizations and health insurers resort to “dashboarding?”
Why do some organizations base their business and clinical decisions on simplified analyses and trend derivatives, instead of incorporating learnings gleaned from long-term trend analysis, meaningful testing and psychographic healthcare consumer insights?
Advanced analytics are the Big Data equivalent to maintaining situational awareness in the cockpit. They provide critical context. Whereas a glance up from the panel and a head swivel around the canopy will allow a pilot to get a feel for the terrain below, the atmospheric environment and the attitude of the aircraft, allowing him or her to make intuitive adjustments, psychographics and other advanced analytics can give a healthcare organization a better feel for its patient consumer population, allowing it to better anticipate consumer reaction to business inputs and clinical service changes.
Moreover, advanced analytical tools can help health systems and insurers identify developing service niches, uncover areas of disparity and — especially in the case of psychographic analysis — detect unseen and unanticipated barriers that prevent some patients from seeking care.
To be clear, dashboards are a useful way to simplify and clarify key data; however, failing to look beyond the dashboard could lead to avoidable consequences.
Psychographic segmentation and advanced analytics offer an efficient route to patient engagement.
Use the 3 rules listed above to develop your organization’s engagement and data management strategy, then refer back to them as your tactics evolve (and, if you’re using patient data to greatest effect, they should most certainly evolve). Patient engagement and activation aren’t healthcare MacGuffins — they’re tangible, realizable goals. You just need the right insights to guide your organization to them.