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Healthcare Organizations Stymied by Health Data Analytics Tools

Healthcare leaders are frustrated by the number and heterogeneity of their organization's health data analytics tools.

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Source: Getty Images

By Fred Donovan

- Healthcare organizations are frustrated by the number and heterogeneity of their health data analytics tools, according to a survey of 110 senior healthcare leaders by Dimensional Insight and HIMSS Analytics.

Healthcare organizations are using an average of around four data analytics tools, and 16.5 percent have 10 or more analytics solutions in use across their system, the survey found.

Only one-quarter of healthcare organizations are able to leverage health data analytics throughout their entire multi-hospital system.

“The sheer number of analytics tools in use means that different departments within an organization will often have different numbers or measures, and it’s hard to reconcile them, leading to a more siloed look at data,” observed Dimensional Insight CEO Fred Powers.

The survey also found that while two-thirds of healthcare organizations have an executive dashboard to support strategic decision making, only one-third use it on a daily basis. In total, less than one-quarter of healthcare organizations leverage their data at an executive level daily.

An executive dashboard provides senior healthcare leaders a way to review important data within their organizations and make data-driven decisions to support their strategic goals.

While 92.7 percent of respondents said they have an analytics strategy, only 31.8 percent have been executing on that strategy for some time.

More than half of organizations use the analytics provided through their executive dashboard to inform decisions at only a departmental or single-hospital level.

“While many healthcare organizations have the best of intentions when it comes to analytics, they struggle with how to facilitate data-driven decision-making system-wide and on a regular basis,” Powers said.

A full 90 percent of respondents said they are using analytics in clinical areas, 85.5 percent are using analytics in financial areas, and 77.3 percent are using analytics in operational areas.

To overcome these problems and leverage data analytics for organizational success, Dimensional Insight and HIMSS Analytics recommend that healthcare leaders:

  • Ensure that departments are working from the same numbers. If “admissions,” for example, is defined differently in separate departments or areas of a health system, it’s hard to make system-wide decisions when departments are arguing about the definition. Everyone needs to come to consensus on KPI or measures definitions — and understand where those numbers are coming from.
  • Align analytics with the organization’s strategic goals. Analytics won’t be successful if executives don’t care about what you’re measuring, or if they can’t see how what you’re measuring ties into the organization’s most important goals. Leaders must consider their health system’s overall strategic objectives and then map out analytics to support those initiatives.
  • Use the executive dashboard daily. Once the executive dashboard has been populated with the metrics that leaders agree match to their strategic goals, it’s important to actually use that dashboard and track progress on key measures. This is the hard work of changing how decisions are made — but it’s work that pays off in the end in the form of improved outcomes.

Despite the challenges, the use of data analytics is expected to grow in healthcare. In fact a recent P&S Market Research study predicted that the healthcare big data analytics market would increase at a healthy compound annual growth rate of 22 percent through 2023.

A significant increase in financial analytics use in healthcare, a surge in demand for analysis of structured and unstructured health data, decreasing costs and availability of big data software and services, increased adoption of new technologies for data analytics in business transformations, greater use of personalized healthcare systems, and demand for high quality healthcare services are all fueling healthcare data analytics market growth.

North America has the largest healthcare big data analytics market, based on region. The fastest growth market is expected to be Asia-Pacific. This can be attributed to factors such as advancement in big data technologies, growing digitalization, expanding data analytics software industry, and increasing adoption of big data analytics services by healthcare providers in the Asia-Pacific region.

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