Why Analytics Is Healthcare’s Secret Weapon
On any given day, the doctor’s waiting room can be a pleasant experience or a complete disaster. If the payment processing or scheduling system goes down, both patients and staff can experience long waits, due to errors, and mix-ups. Even worse, if doctors and nurses lose access to electronic medical records or the online drug interaction database, medical care can slow to a standstill until the system is back up. While technical issues may seem to come out of the blue, with predictive data and analytics, IT managers can diagnose and stop them in their tracks.
The future of healthcare is digital and the IT department is at the center of it. Healthcare IT is rapidly becoming a billion dollar industry, just consider the $1.75 billion spent on the first fully digital hospital in North America, the Humber River Hospital (HRH) in Ontario. At HRH, patients have access to digital bedside terminals that show their upcoming appointments, electronic medical records, Internet access for entertainment during their visit and more. The digitalization movement puts IT at the center of the healthcare ecosystem, with more exciting new challenges and responsibility than ever before.
And while this movement is incredibly positive, it comes at a time of never-before-seen public scrutiny for healthcare providers. Take, for example, the recent patient satisfaction survey from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Whether or not you agree with the survey methods and results, it’s obvious that the patient-reported, qualitative data doesn’t give management all the information they need to make necessary changes.
Healthcare organizations are in dire need of business analytics for their IT departments. According to a study by Health Catalyst, 90 percent of CIOs view analytics as a “very important” initiative for 2015. As the technology that they invest in grows, to maintain the quality of that scale and the patient experience, they need fast insights from data to measure and manage IT systems. Analytics gives IT managers information that they need to weed out unnecessary expenses, improve operations and predict incidents over time.
Weill Cornell Medical College, a top-ranked clinical and medical research center, required support for their vast and diverse IT needs. “IT is critical in healthcare organizations who rely on digital technology to access electronic medical records, securely store data and process patient information,” said Richard Hu, Associate Director of Service Strategy and Systems Architecture, Weill Cornell. “Our IT staff from Finance, Clinical and IT infrastructure teams supports the diverse technology needs of thousands of employees, from physicians to hospital staff, students and researchers. Analytics plays a big role in enabling our service strategy and achieving our customer satisfaction goals.” There’s a lot of data that a team that size needs access to in order to operate efficiently, this is a case we see a lot in our discussions with healthcare IT leaders.
Hu and his team are using IT analytics to identify recurring problems and make data-driven staffing decisions. This is done using a cloud-based dashboard that unites multiple data sources and a self-service analytical application allows them to slice and dice the data. When the IT team can easily see the root cause of recurring issues, for example, they can work to prevent it. This has a ripple effect across the entire organization: medical staff can be more productive when there are fewer system errors and patients will have a better experience. The ability to proactively identify problems is an effective way for IT teams to respond to the inevitable changing demands of healthcare organizations.
IT analytics also shines the light on the hidden costs of equipment and system errors. Healthcare employees are at risk of high-stress rates and this problem is compounded when technical issues frustrate them and keep them from performing their tasks. When irritated patients are added to this scenario, employee morale and retention is negatively affected. However, transparency into what causes these issues and information-sharing will help IT and even other departments make data-based decisions that lessen technical issues. For example, IT data analytics can show patterns, such as more system errors over the holidays, when emergency room visits increase. In a scenario like this, IT managers can track the impact that their specific healthcare organizations experience and better train and prepare their staff.
The hospital ecosystem is complex. As such, it’s clear that IT requires comprehensive data analytics. From minimizing the impact of technical issues on patients and staff to cost-savings and better-trained staff, the benefits of IT analytics are far reaching as healthcare services become increasingly digitalized.[Photo courtesy of Pexels.]