Integrating Analytics and Healthcare Quality Improvement Initiatives

by Trevor Strome on February 13, 2012

Analytics alone isn’t the answer to improving healthcare

In my recent Health IT Exchange article, I make the assertion that analytics alone cannot improve healthcare. Dashboards, scorecards, reports, and other information tools by themselves cannot change people’s practices. In order for real change to occur, it is necessary that analytic and Business Intelligence (BI) tools are applied in a strategic combination with quality improvement initiatives.

As I mention in the article, Lean and Six Sigma are two of the more common quality improvement approaches in health care, and are often used in concert with each other. Lean is a systematic approach to improving quality and value to the patient by eliminating the waste that is present in almost every health care process. Six Sigma goes a step further, and is a rigorous data-driven approach to reduce process variation and eliminate defects in the delivery of health care.

Quality improvement methodologies provide context for appropriate decision-making

A quality improvement methodology or framework helps provide the necessary context for analytics to help drive appropriate decision making. Quality improvement methodologies identify the most pressing quality issues based on inputs such as patient safety and quality needs (which are the most important factors), the overall goals of the HCO, national standards and legislative requirements.

In times when health care is under quality, financial, and legislative pressure, it is important to provide management and quality improvement teams with the key pieces of information they need to focus on the most important problems, and to make appropriate, timely decisions. The critical indicators derived from approaches such as Lean and Six Sigma can guide decision making on the part of the HCO and result in real health care improvement.

Further reading

Read my Health IT Exchange article for more on how better integration of analytics and quality improvement methodologies can lead to better metrics, better decision-making, and better healthcare.

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