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"No pain, no gain," isn't a phrase one would generally associate with healthcare, but it's a pretty good way to describe the emerging trend in clinical analytics. Care delivery is undergoing tremendous transformation, and the pain of change is being felt by individuals, provider systems and vendors alike. Clinicians, vendors and even consumers are all in this transformation together, aiming for better health.

Equipped with more data than ever before, we're all working to create meaningful information that enables us to focus on the highest priorities and empower real outcomes improvement – strategically, operationally, and most importantly, in patient care quality. We now see new hurdles that must be cleared to make progress. Understanding current clinical performance and optimizing care delivery value requires much more than strong tools and adequate data sets. Healthcare leaders must enable their staffs to leverage the full power of analytics to reveal the causes and impacts of current performance in order to target improvement. Achieving this enviable state will often require transformational change to decision-making bodies, information transparency, and processes that support focused and rapid clinical improvements.

Since most organizations have to report literally hundreds of measures to various quality and regulatory oversight programs, there is real danger in separating quality indicators like HEDIS, CMS and other measures from the true clinical analytics that drive workflow. Historically, reporting measures have been retrospective-- and therefore old news. They were run by a team of reporting czars focused on accurate capture of information through various methods, perhaps best described as by hook or crook. The largest opportunity in clinical analytics today is to truly harmonize these metrics, not just for ease of reporting, but to magnify process improvement in real time. How do we really know how we are performing as a health system? Are we using the right metrics? How are we equipping the physicians, nurses, and administrators to identify, communicate and embrace the highest clinical priorities as their own, and make improvements? Priorities such as these clearly demonstrate care delivery team dependency on trusted data with precise granularity and real time decision-making.

View our infographic,
Optimizing Healthcare Analytics

As members of the C-suite and board recognize the magnitude of change required, they're also assessing the impact of organizational structures, programs, and processes. Thoughtful reviews may reveal how poorly-aligned incentives, physician relationships, clinical metrics, performance reporting, and current governance and accountability structures hinder change. The reality is that change only occurs when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of adopting new behaviors. For many health systems, that time is now.

Follow the High Performers

Leaders of high performing healthcare systems are effectively minimizing the pain of transformation by providing meaningful analytics that focus and align stakeholders, as well as engaging internal or external consultants, for effective clinical improvement. Three key strategies enable the gains experienced by these high performers:

  • Progressively sophisticated clinical analytics programs enable and inform stakeholders at all levels of the organization, from the board room to the point of care. Without a doubt, implementing meaningful clinical analytics is the most critical step for creating trustworthy data required for the successful transformation of patient care delivery.

  • Information transparency that equips the organization to effectively identify, prioritize, analyze, and minimize high-impact variation in clinical care processes and outcomes--accompanied by clear delineation of strategic goals and accountability structures that empower real change at every stakeholder level. Information must be shared in ways that are relevant and easily understood by every level of the organization to achieve full engagement in performance improvement efforts.

  • Alignment of accountability structures, job descriptions, and incentive programs--from staff level team awards to physician contracts and management incentives --with key strategic priorities.

View our infographic to learn how to create and cultivate a culture of analytics based decision-making at your organization.

Jody McDonald

About the author

Jody McDonald, RN, MBA is an advisor with the McKesson Business Advisor Consultants team. She has over twenty-five years of experience in patient care, Operating Room management, and performance improvement at large academic medical centers. Jody’s prior experience has allowed her to develop a comprehensive skill set in planning, operations management, and nursing leadership. Jody specializes in the application of performance metrics and analytics to achieve strategic alignment, process improvement, and transformational change. She has led many successful initiatives focused on improving organizational performance and bottom line results. She is skilled in project management, team leading and facilitation.