Why you need a healthcare analytics strategy (and why just “having” one isn’t enough)

by Trevor Strome on September 19, 2012

Analytics – one hot topic!

Analytics is currently a very “hot topic” in healthcare (and other industries as well). Factors contributing to this popularity include:

  • growing volumes of healthcare data,
  • increasing capability and availability of analytical tools.
  • decreasing cost of business intelligence and analytics solutions

These and other factors are resulting in a lot of excitement about the potential insights and knowledge that analytics may be able to extract from all that healthcare-related data now being collected.

Being a “hot topic”, however, has a down-side. There are many buzzwords, white papers, multiple technologies, and many seemingly conflicting opinions associated with healthcare analytics. All this “noise” (if not filtered) can make it difficult for healthcare leaders and analytics stakeholders to discern which tools, techniques, and technologies are appropriate for the unique requirements of their own organizations.

Strategy is not “one size fits all”

Every healthcare organization (HCO) is different in relation to it’s business and quality goals. Because of the need for technology that helps achieve these unique goals and objectives, HCOs differ in their information technology (IT) infrastructures and they typically have an IT strategy to ensure that IT aligns with the business.

Although typically lumped in with IT, effective analytics actually requires the careful consideration and alignment of three components of healthcare:

  • Business – the overall performance goals of the healthcare organization
  • Quality – the clinical and operational quality improvement goals of the organization, and the strategies to achieve these goals
  • Information Technology – the IT infrastructure (current and future) that will serve as the foundation for building analytical applications

An effective analytics strategy incorporates aspects of business, quality improvement, and IT strategies, as these three components establish the reasons for implementing analytics, and the technological framework with which to accomplish this. Healthcare organizations need to ensure that the analytics solutions they deploy enable the organization to understand its operational and clinical performance with more clarity, and to make better decisions.

An analytics strategy maintains focus

Just having a strategy is not enough. An organization must actually execute on the strategy to derive actual benefit. The benefits of truly adopting, executing, and following an analytics strategy are:

  • maintaining focus on what is important (from a performance and quality perspective)
  • defining how analytics is going to support achieving the goals and objectives
  • minimizing diversions due to competing projects of lesser priority, new (but unnecessary) technology, and other distractions.

Healthcare organizations that execute on analytics strategy are more likely to see information resources actually contribute to achieving their business and quality goals. Failure to execute the analytics strategy may result in HCOs getting lost in the “hype” of analytics. This typically causes HCOs to invest money and time (both resources usually in short supply) in analytics infrastructure, technology, and development projects that may not contribute to the fundamental goals of the organization, and ultimately distract the HCO from achieving these goals.

This is Part I of a multi-part series on Analytics Strategy. Part II (coming soon!) will discuss the key components of an analytics strategy framework.

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