Not All Data Is Created Equal: Identifying the Information that Matters Most

Herman Jenich, MPP, Chief Analytics Officer, xG Health Solutions, April 6, 2018

Ten years ago, the holy grail of business was getting all of the data that you could — there was never quite enough to answer even the most basic questions that you needed addressed. Then came the promise of “Big Data”, which was expected to provide organizations with all of the details it ever wanted about customers, clients, competitors and internal processes. Plus, all this detailed data would give us what we needed to become more efficient, more competitive and more effective at providing quality services and products.

Do you remember the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for?”

Today, we are mired in a sea of data. Clinical and business leaders in healthcare organizations are swamped with information and too often struggle to achieve the meaningful insights derived from data that are required to make effective decisions. We have powerful tools, dashboards and other applications that enable us to slice, dice and analyze data in as many ways as we can imagine. But more and more, we’re being reminded that not all data is created equal.

We don’t want to turn back the clock, of course. The raw data that we’re gathering is an incredibly valuable asset, and we don’t always know what piece of information might lead to a valuable discovery. What we need, however, are ways to identify the data that is most useful, and to analyze such data in ways that help us create actionable steps that solve our most pressing problems.

For many healthcare organizations, among the most meaningful metrics are those related to:

  • Quality of care
  • Clinical efficiency
  • Financial performance

In this paradigm, where data are generally plentiful and analytic tools abound, staff are often left trying to make sense of conflicting information and generating a bounty of graphs and tables that yield a famine of insights and actionable steps. While initially tools that let you “drill down in a hundred directions” sound incredibly appealing, business leaders quickly realize that only a handful of those hundred directions really matter.

Knowing the most important ways to drill into particular problems matters. Here’s a recent example: an organization in an at-risk arrangement had identified higher-than-expected costs related to emergency room services. They explored all of the traditional actuarial data — demographic information, costs of supplies and personnel, etc. — but had failed to identify the root causes of their soaring expenses.

We take a different approach. Rather than restricting our view to what we thought would be causing the problem, our inquiries include a broad range of clinical factors, time periods, utilization patterns, clinic locations, benefit structures, provider billing processes, and so on.

As a result, our analysis revealed a distinct pattern in the times of day and days of the week when patient arrivals—and costs—spiked. Simply put, when primary care offices closed, patient demand went up because no alternatives were being offered in important geographic segments of the hospital’s market. We also found that clinicians were using higher than average intensity CPT codes, which was driving up costs in unintended ways.

Effective data analytics helped reveal the hidden causes behind the hospital’s higher ER costs. Once those causes had been identified, the solutions were quite straightforward. To lower costs related to after-hours ER visits, the hospital worked with primary care providers to expand their open hours and improve their relationships with urgent-care providers that could address many of their patients’ non-life-threatening health problems. By educating staff and providers on proper coding, the hospital was able to correct the data it was providing to payers and improve reimbursement timeliness.

Powered by more than 20 years of Geisinger experience, xG Health’s data analytics solutions can help your organization navigate the rising sea of data and achieve your financial, clinical and quality objectives.

For more information on xG Health Solutions and our data analytics expertise, please contact Herman Jenich at

Rocky Edmondson RN, BSN, MBA, CCRN
Senior Director, Bundled Payments, Care Redesign and Management Advisors, xG Health Solutions

Rocky Edmondson is the Senior Director of Bundled Payments for Care Redesign and Management Advisors at xG Health Solutions. Rocky has been involved in workflow redesign, program implementation, and analytic evaluation of Bundled Payment Programs across the country, and he coaches Hospitals, Health Systems, Post-Acute Providers, and Physician Groups on how to successfully implement care redesign in the Bundled Payment for Care Improvement (BPCI) and CJR Programs.

Rocky’s passion is helping people to understand the intricacies of Bundled Payment Programs. He has a talent for teaching people how to cut through all the noise and just do the things that matter to be successful in these programs.

Rocky holds an Associate’s Degree in Nursing from the University of Hawaii Maui, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA) from Boise State University.

Prior to joining xG Health Solutions, Rocky was the Southeast Region Director of Clinical Operations for Remedy Partners, overseeing program design, implementation and analytic evaluations for Bundled Payment Programs. Prior to embarking on a career in Bundled Payments, Rocky was a Registered Nurse for 18 years, working in a number of positions within Critical Care. Before becoming a Nurse, Rocky was an Institutional Broker at Merrill Lynch and advised a number of healthcare systems and large corporations on cash management strategies. In addition, Rocky has started several businesses and provided consulting for small business startups. Rocky served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Recon Marine.

Janet Comrey RN, BSN, MHSA
Director, Population Health Solutions, Geisinger Health System

Janet Comrey, RN, BSN, MHSA has over 30 years of diversified nursing and leadership experience at Geisinger Health system and currently serves as Director of a small department embedded within Population Health. One of her key roles is managing the Bundle Payment for Care Improvement (BPCI) program since January 2014 earning an overall positive net payment reconciliation to date. Janet also serves as the coordinator for Project Achieve at Geisinger which is a national PCORI funded study related to patient’s perceptions of transitions of care.

Janet received her nursing education through Geisinger’s diploma program, her BSN through Bloomsburg University, and later earned her graduate degree from Marywood University. During her tenure at Geisinger she taught quality improvement methodology and facilitated improvement teams the Geisinger Quality Institute. She is currently enrolled in the Institute for Healthcare Improvement Advisory program.

Professional memberships include Sigma Theta Tau, Phi Kappa Phi, American Society for Quality.

Andrew Blackmon, MBA, MHS
Chief Sales and Business Development Officer

Chief Sales and Business Development Officer Andrew Blackmon, MBA, MHS, has more than 18 years of experience in healthcare product sales, marketing, and strategy.

Before joining xG Health, Andrew was vice president of sales for population health and risk management solutions at McKesson. He came to McKesson through acquisition of MedVentive, an early population health vendor. Before MedVentive, he served as vice president of enterprise solutions development at MedAssets. He is a past president of the Georgia chapter of HIMSS, and he has held strategy and planning positions at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Orlando Health.

Andrew has an MBA and a Master’s of Health Science from the University of Florida Warrington, College of Business, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Rollins College.

Holly Barbella, RN, MBA

Risk Coordinator, Geisinger Health System

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Earl P. Steinberg, MD, MPP
Chief Executive Officer

Earl P. Steinberg, MD, MPP, is a nationally recognized expert in healthcare quality improvement and serves as xG Health’s chief executive officer. Earl also is an adjunct professor of Medicine and of Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins University and a member of Blue Cross/Blue Shield Association’s National Medical Advisory Panel.

Before joining xG Health, Earl was executive vice president of Innovation & Dissemination, and chief, Healthcare Solutions Enterprise at Geisinger Health System.

Before joining Geisinger, he was senior vice president for Clinical Strategy, Quality & Outcomes at WellPoint, Inc., the largest commercial health insurer by membership in the US, and president and CEO of Resolution Health Inc. (RHI), a leading healthcare data analysis company that provides innovative quality improvement and cost reduction services to health plans, employers, pharmacy benefit managers, and disease management companies.

Before joining RHI, Earl spent six years as vice president of Covance Health Economics and Outcomes Services Inc., director of its Quality Assessment and Improvement Systems Division, and co-director of its Outcomes Studies Group. He also spent 12 years on the full-time faculty at Johns Hopkins University, where he was professor of Medicine and of Health Policy and Management and director of the Johns Hopkins Program for Medical Technology and Practice Assessment, and four years on the Federal Physician Payment Review Commission. He co-chaired the Institute of Medicine’s panel on Standards for Development of Trustworthy Practice Guidelines.

Earl has received many awards, including the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation Faculty Scholar Award in General Internal Medicine (1984), the “Outstanding Young Investigator” Award from the Association for Health Services Research (1988), and a Special Presidential Visionary Award from the National Kidney Foundation (NFK) (2004) for his work as the scientific director of the NKF’s landmark Kidney Disease Outcomes and Quality Initiative, which produced more than 250 clinical practice guidelines for management of patients with end-stage renal disease. He also is a fellow of both the American College of Physicians and AcademyHealth, and he has published more than 125 articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Earl received his AB from Harvard College (summa cum laude), his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, and a Master of Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government. He performed his residency training in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.