04 Apr 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 email@example.com.