Are you a healthcare leader confused by the dizzying array of analytics options on the market? Are you struggling to gain a consistent, objective understanding of what is driving the total cost of care for your attributed patients? Do you have insight into factors affecting access to care at your clinics? Finding it difficult to adjust quality and performance measures to account for variance in patient risk? Have you asked yourself, “How do I make sure we are taking the right approach with respect to analytics?” First…remain calm. Resist the anxious feeling that you need to latch onto one of the myriad “analytics solutions” on the market or risk being swept out to sea!

As Jason Burke pointed out in his 2013 book “Health Analytics: Gaining the insights to transform health care” organizations differ in their “analytics maturity”—from the relatively simple ability to report on operations (i.e., counting, summing, and aggregating by classification categories) to forecasting, predicting, and optimizing operations using sophisticated statistical methods, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. As Burke’s maturity model suggests (and what peaks healthcare leaders’ interest), as organizations become more sophisticated in their use of analytics, the rate of organizational impact accelerates.

Importantly, it is not the acquisition of sophisticated software solutions that brings significant value to the organization. It is the organization’s capability to utilize their amassed data that makes the difference.

Granted, there are a host of vendor solutions on the market that very ably fulfill specific requirements for analytics—especially, for example, in the areas of clinical quality measurement and identification of gaps in care based on evidence based medicine. However, I would argue that as with growing any organizational capability (quality improvement, project management, etc.) developing an analytics capability requires a certain amount of struggling through the basics at the lower end of the maturity curve in order to gain full organizational mastery and create a strong internal analytics capability.

That said, many analytics initiatives suffer a long, agonizing death stuck in the quagmire of what Dale Sanders and HIMSS Analytics describe in their analytics maturity models as “Stage 0”, or “fragmented point solutions”. Usually some incredibly dedicated individual in some corner of the organization takes the initiative to create some much-needed and incredibly valuable reports in billing, pharmacy, or some other operational area and soon the entire organization is running off trying to copy their approach. Maybe he or she is even put in charge of an enterprise-wide initiative to replicate their success. The solution does not scale, there is constant finger-pointing, and no two reports or analyses ever reach the same conclusion. Sound familiar?

On the other extreme, I have worked with healthcare organizations that decide the only way to approach analytics is to embark on a procurement process to simply “buy analytics”. The problems with this approach are two-fold.

  1. What Exactly Do We Need? No matter how thoughtfully the organization structures its procurement committee, the process by which requirements are gathered is often lacking, or, requirements-gathering is completely overlooked. As a result, you invite in a number of vendors who really have no place in your organization until you find one that strikes a chord with a key group of constituents (maybe your providers really like the look and feel of a given solution’s user interface). If this selection process works out, great; if it is the wrong decision you are at least stuck with it for a time as the individuals who pushed for the purchase defend it and try to find a way to make it work.
  2.  Who is Running Our Organization? Another concern that has subtle, but important, consequences is that “buying analytics” can result in organizations unwittingly ceding power over their strategic decision-making capability to their vendor. Instead of people within your organization having the capability to answer a wide array of their own “what-if” questions, users of these systems are only presented with answers to the questions that your vendor felt were the most important to the majority of their customers. Don’t worry…it could work out, right?

Between the extremes of trying to scale an impossibly simple reporting solution and putting your fate in the hands of a vendor who wants to sell you a handful of magic beans is a more focused approach to your quandary—analytics as a service (AaaS). AaaS solutions can provide focused solutions to your biggest pain points (be it measuring access to care, utilization metrics for patients enrolled in an ACO contract, total cost of care, days in A/R, etc.) without the exorbitant cost of purchasing hardware and software or hiring data scientists and database administrators.

Further, unlike home-grown “Stage 0” reporting solutions, AaaS solutions are constructed on an elastic, scalable platform that will grow with your needs seamlessly. As you experience success in managing operations in a more sophisticated data-driven manner, your solution can scale out and up to meet the demands of higher volumes of data, more nuanced interrogation of the data, and your organization’s expanding data literacy.

The best thing about this approach is that it starts your organization on solid footing to be in control of your own analytics destiny without an enormous up-front price tag. As your team members gain exposure to what is possible to know from the data generated by your EMR and PM systems, they will ask increasingly sophisticated questions, drive development of more robust analytic tools, and arrive at precisely the analytics solution that is right for your organization. No more paying for functionality that you do not want and will never use; no risk of spending an inordinate sum on a platform solution that may or may not address the analytics challenges you face.

If you would like to explore the opportunities an AaaS solution could afford your organization, please contact us.