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Improving healthcare with analytics: The essentials to creating a data-driven organization

Joe Warbington
Joe Warbington, Director Market Development for Healthcare, Qlik

There is no doubt the healthcare industry continues to transform and evolve at a staggering pace. Between the mergers and acquisitions, to the ever-changing regulations, to patient care, one has to wonder how health systems these days keep track of it all and remain profitable, while delivering care patients and society expect to receive. So how do successful health systems do it? How do successful health systems change the internal culture to reflect the various demands patients, stakeholders, and clinicians put on them while also ensuring safety and profitability? The answer, quite simply, is put is to empower decision makers to make data-driven decisions at the point of care rather than days, weeks, or even months down the road.

In order to do this, one must work to change the internal cultural within a health system, to really rally the troops so to speak, and implement a solution that enables stakeholders to create an enterprise-wide, sustainable and progressive environment for analytics. Yes, analytics. By applying visual analytics solutions to various departments throughout the health system, one is able to see the wide-range of benefits, including the delivery of enhanced patient care, inventory levels being more accurate, as well as the ability to reduce costs and waste.

But going about implementing an analytics solution isn’t always as easy as it seems. Many individuals are reluctant to adopt a solution and make decisions on evidence-based data, and prefer going more off gut feel, which oftentimes leads to disparities in care, increased overhead costs, and ultimately a disenfranchised internal team. However, with the right strategy in place, health system executives will be able to implement a solution, gain user adoption, and create a 360 degree, enterprise-wide perspective across departments. Before jumping feet-first into deployment, one must know that analytics strategies work best when they are aligned to an organization’s specific characteristics, potential, and also limitations.

 Components of this strategy include: 

  • A framework to ensure stakeholders properly embed an analytics strategy within the wider organization environment to generate value;
  • A value generation check-list outlining the critical factors in building pathways to tangible results; and
  • Examples of healthcare organizations that have successfully generated value from analytics.

In addition to understanding, addressing, and planning the components of an analytics strategy, one must dive a bit deeper into the actual framework and develop specific guidelines and what steps need to be taken next. For example, we breakdown the framework into four main categories, all reflecting the different elements at play within an organization’s ability to achieve measurable results and identify strengths, weaknesses, and potential areas for change.

The four components are: 

  • Core value and capabilities: Incorporates leadership, culture and skills;
  • Enablers and execution: Incorporates project management, organizational intelligence, structure and teams, training, investment and location priorities;
  • Data and information: Incorporates the state of data and information, information excellence and information governance; and
  • Value generation: Incorporates the end-result of improvement and change programs, initiatives and processes in different areas, for example, care process redesign, clinical decision support or population health management.

By applying the framework, a number of health systems around the world have been able to invoke change within their internal culture to make analytics work for them and generate substantial value. And while one might believe the change in culture must start at the top, it doesn’t always have to. Leaders must empower others to drive change. For example, today, analytics stakeholders are just as likely to be the head of nursing as they are to be a business analyst. By empowering others who are on the front lines of healthcare, the insights being delivered are at the granular level and can be disruptive and challenge the existing status quo and ways of doing things. In the end, the most significant and common trait successful health systems have in netting substantial, eye opening change are the ones that have a successful orchestration of all moving parts – culture, leadership, project management, organizational intelligence, training and prioritization.


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