The top five analytics challenges for hospitals

by Wyley McCoy, Executive Vice President

A well-functioning analytics program asks the right questions of the right data and then monitors the results. Rather than a one-time activity, it is iterative — where each analytic answers the following questions:

  • What’s happening here?
  • Does the result deviate from the expectation?
  • What is the magnitude of the deviation?
  • Can I expect this result to continue?

The first time you ask a question of the data, it is an exploratory endeavor – you may have a hypothesis, but ultimately you don’t know what will turn up. If you do find a result that needs to be addressed, the data then needs to support root-cause analysis so you can attribute variances to variables. Having a good “data haystack,” that is, data from not only your facility but also real-world data from other institutions increases the likelihood of finding that elusive needle.

To engineer a more promising haystack, we need to address and overcome several of the analytics challenges hospitals face every day. When successful, we transform data and analytics into powerful tools that not only inform but perform for clinicians and hospital administrators. At Agilum, our goal is to help you achieve these objectives.

Here are the top five analytics challenges hospital administrators, pharmacists and physicians tell us they face every day:

  • My data/analytics are not readily accessible or easily available
  • I’m not sure how trustworthy my data/analytics are
  • My data/analytics arrive too late to be actionable
  • My analytics need to be prescriptive and better support my decision-making
  • My data restrict my ability to improve and innovate

A brief summary of each topic area follows. Future blogs will feature each topic and explore them in greater depth.

The importance of good data

Engineering good data sets on your own is a time-consuming, arduous process with many steps. While hospitals have plenty of data, it’s frequently not ready for analytics. The resources required to access this data often span multiple departments and constituencies across a hospital. Resource constraints are not at all uncommon. Many interdependencies also exist, and layers of approvals are frequently required to build meaningful data sets quickly.

Agilum’s solutions make these tasks relatively quick and easy — with automated processes almost anyone can execute. The result? Agilum products deliver actionable, quality data to decision-makers faster.

The trustworthiness of your data

Data is only as good as what you have to compare it to. Agilum’s real-world data allows a hospital to not only compare themselves to an internally set goal, but also to the “norm” for others, like institutions. It establishes a benchmark — a baseline. Real-world data allows a hospital to validate results against a much larger data set while controlling for certain variables. The validation of the data/analytic helps to establish trust in it. And trust in the data is the first step toward changing behaviors and outcomes.

The implications of real-time, real-world data

Many hospitals experience difficulty in building or accumulating data sets in specific circumstances, such as with rare diseases. In these cases, accessing data, information or intelligence from other institutions becomes critical. COVID-19 is an excellent example.

In the midst of a worldwide pandemic involving the novel coronavirus, many administrators, pharmacists and physicians were hard-pressed to harvest much-needed data in a timely fashion. The implications of this dilemma were daunting, in that these individuals were required to make real-time decisions with enormous implications for patients, healthcare facilities and local populations. Agilum helps alleviate challenges like these, with real-world data available as close to real-time as possible, providing explanations rather than after-action reports.

Here is an example of how Agilum Healthcare Intelligence helped New York health systems manage drug supply, predict drug requirements and prepare for possible drug shortages as the COVID-19 crisis unfolded. Real-time, real-world data can make a real difference.

The importance of making prescriptive data part of your workstream

Quality, real-time data is the glue that holds everything else together in a hospital and should be an integral element of your workstream. Rather than an add-on, data needs to become part of an organization – part of the everyday experience – actively involved all the time. Why? Data supports real-time decision-making. It assists in testing hypotheses to get to the right answer. It helps identify outliers and can support behavioral changes across care delivery. Most importantly, data that supports prescriptive analytics empowers individuals to write a story, rather than just read a story.

Data’s role in improvement and innovation

Many healthcare administrators find themselves working with much less data than other business executives have to do their jobs. Improvement and innovation suffer as a result.

Imagine having to run a business in an environment in which you receive data about your operations and performance but, typically, only after a protracted period of time. In this scenario, intelligence is imperfect, feedback is minimal and there is limited or no ability to validate or compare your results to real-world data. You need to run your business based on what you know and what you see, until that data and analyses arrive. How would you do?

If you’re in this situation now, perhaps you should ask yourself this question: How am I doing?

Now imagine yourself as an administrator, a pharmacist, a physician or a financial analyst, with real-time, real-world data readily available from your hospital’s operations and others. You’re using Agilum products like Comparative Rapid Cycle Analyticsä Pharmacy & Therapeutics (CRCA™ P&T), and Service Line Costing and Profitability, which offer hospitals like yours the ability to quickly detect specific key variances (e.g., drug prices), root cause drivers, and take corrective action.

In this environment, you’re in command of relevant and actionable data that enables you to make data-driven decisions in the moment. This healthcare business intelligence allows you to operate more efficiently, prescribe more effectively, practice medicine more intelligently and treat patients more compassionately. Improvement and innovation are byproducts of this data-rich environment.

Now ask yourself this question: How much better could I be doing?