“One of the biggest hurdles to becoming truly data-driven is the ability to integrate different data sets. The big two, of course, are clinical and financial data sets…hospitals and health systems have a real integration challenge. The technology must be able to integrate everything into a single database that users can query.”The American Hospital Association
Are you sitting on a mountain of data, but don’t know where to start to extract value and discover your data story?
This is a common problem for hospital leaders, even in the age of “big data”, healthcare data lakes, and the cloud. Even small hospitals are generating thousands of data points every day. Unfortunately, a huge amount of that value is sitting untapped—largely because leaders either don’t have the tools they need to use that data to fuel better decisions and healthier organizations, or they think that it’s too difficult or labor intensive to get started (or restarted) on their unique journey to a healthy relationship with their data.
A little-known secret though, is that it doesn’t have to be hard.
We’ve helped hospitals and health systems around the country take a step into new and sustainable data initiatives, just by starting with straightforward goals, flexible tools, and understanding that they’re stepping into a marathon, not a sprint.
What’s On the Line?
The short answer is everything. The financial health of modern hospitals and health systems lives or dies by data today. Your leaders need reliable, accessible, actionable data to make progress on:
- Addressing staffing challenges brought on by a pandemic and talent shortages.
- Improving organizational efficiency to focus on outcomes and align with value-based care initiatives.
- Supporting efficient and flexible budget processes that adapt to your needs.
- Predicting and demonstrating positive ROI on all future hospital initiatives.
What does effective healthcare finance data look like?
Effective use of healthcare data looks different for every organization, but here are a few examples of what we like to see with our customers:
- Finance teams receiving financial data reports each morning to support trend analysis and monitoring of key metrics
- Pulling financial data out of a range of sources beyond the EMR and across the enterprise including payroll, the general ledger, ASCs and nursing homes, and beyond
- Centralized access to KPIs for all decision-makers, from the C-suite to department managers
Where do we start?
Most hospitals get their start by identifying what characteristics make their data usable. These are the four characteristics we prioritize at Organizational Intelligence:
- Timeliness: If your data isn’t being continually refreshed, you’re making stale decisions based on stale information. Your leadership needs a way to access fresh data on demand.
- Accessibility: If your data is locked away or simply too difficult to access, it might as well not exist at all. Your clinical and finance teams need easy access to data when they need it, in easy-to-interpret formats.
- Actionability: Information is generally pointless if it doesn’t feed into the critical decisions you’re making every day. This is best enabled by data visualization tools that support the needs of both financial and clinical users.
- Comparability: Your insights should be easily contextualized against benchmarks, historical data and baselines, and future scenarios.
“The technologies that hospitals and health systems deploy to become data-driven should make data readily accessible to users as specified by their data governance policy. Access supports transparency, and transparency fosters trust. Further, data-visualization tools layered on top of those technologies should be capable of presenting data in compelling and understandable ways to facilitate actions based on what the data reveal.”The American Hospital Association
Your Next Steps on Your Hospital Finance Data Journey
Moving forward on your data journey will be a process, but there are a few decisions you can make today to improve your chances of success.
#1 Prioritize Simplification
A simplified database and data feed will require less maintenance, less time spent reconciling—saving you time and frustration in the long term. Additionally, aim to streamline communication between your platforms to increase efficiency.
When it comes to your healthcare decision support technology, ideally, you should look to minimize vendor support. The last thing you want is to have to contact a vendor to run reports, identify and correct issues, or make changes to your budgets.
Streamlining data and communication across all systems makes responding to real world challenges easier for your leadership and staff. Learn how streamlined communications helped this California teaching hospital navigate early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic here.
#2 Dive into Data Integrity
The idea of “garbage in, garbage out” might sound cliche, but it’s no less true today than it was years ago.
Your data initiative thrives on honest and accurate data, so make sure you’re prioritizing accuracy from the start. Make sure to implement tools that perform quality checks to ensure your data is clean from the beginning. Lisa Gulker, senior director of health system operations at Cerner explains it this way,
“The overarching goal of real-world data is to give providers the best possible information so that they can consistently make great decisions for their patient populations. Organizations use this information to manage the resources that patients need, such as beds at a particular level of care, the right equipment, and the right staff to take care of patients.”
#3 Automate Wherever You Can
Opportunities to automate are invaluable as you move along your data journey. Features like automatic reconciliation save time and reduce the risks of human error contaminating your results and decisions. Automated reports allow your users to focus on higher-value tasks.
The time saved can be surprising. A Georgia health system streamlined their finance and accounting processes and reporting with customizable heads up displays (HUDs) that feed automatically from Meditech, fresh every morning. (You can read more about their experience here.)