For healthcare providers today, survival is often the first item on the agenda. As costs keep rising, operating margins keep shrinking. According to Moody’s, for example, average operating margins at US public hospitals dropped from 3.4% in 2014 to 2.7% in 2016.
When confronted with the new realities of US healthcare, many providers launch full-scale transformation efforts to address everything from cost-savings and treatment protocols to public health management and changing organizational cultures. In many cases, the sheer size of the endeavor is too huge for time-strapped healthcare professionals to make much progress. As a result, it often loses much of its steam after only a few months.
Data is one of the biggest roadblocks. Providers have information systems that capture clinical and operational data to support individual patient encounters and assure accurate billing. But that body of data is so vast and fragmented that providers have an extremely difficult time gleaning useful insights from it.
Electronic medical records also pose analytical challenges. They put clinical data into a single source database record that replaces the traditional paper file. However, much of the data is maintained in memo fields in the form of written notes (unstructured data) from physicians and nurses, which is also very difficult to analyze and use to create physician scorecards and other rankings. Providers will also have more access to big data emanating from wearable devices and patient care monitoring devices. If easily accessible and actionable, this data can be powerful during routine physicals and to identify early warning signs of potentially dangerous conditions.
The end game is to bring all of this data together so healthcare providers can develop a holistic view of their operations and patient populations. Once they gain that perspective, providers will be poised to reap the rewards of a new environment that demands cost reductions while maintaining and increasing the quality of care.
Where to start? Well, we know from our experience that trying to boil the ocean isn’t where to begin. Instead, healthcare providers need to start small, reap the gains, and then systematically move forward.
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