The Data Scientist - the WPC Healthcare Blog

What’s Your Data Strategy?


Published by: Ray Guzman, CEO, WPC Healthcare

December 15, 2016, NASHVILLE, TENNESSEEWhen my family and I moved into our current home, we got a beautiful advertisement from a local hospital system, which also included a survey. If you filled it out, they’d give you a Home Depot gift card. I filled out the survey, which asked me how I liked to be contacted. I selected email and text. Not long after, I got an automated phone call and no further follow-up. While they were spot on in identifying us as a customer, their engagement strategy didn’t match up. This may have been unique to my survey, but I suspect a more persistent problem lurks: a data infrastructure that’s not performing as well as it should.

Whether it’s a clinical report from an EHR, a new way of measuring bad debt, or survey data, healthcare organizations are generating mountains of data. But efforts to glean appropriate insights to provide better patient outcomes aren’t yielding the needed results. With the final CMS rule implementing the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, the shift to value-based reimbursement has been greatly accelerated. In the march from volume to value, organizations that don’t take the time to transform data into a truly valuable asset face significant challenges.

Based on our experience at WPC, the road to truly optimize an organization’s data infrastructure has five core milestones:

1. Build a solid data foundation.

You have to walk before you run. The opportunity to monetize the value
of big data actually starts well before algorithms and statistical models are applied. Similar to building a house, you must first construct a solid foundation to ensure the longevity and value of your investment. Hospitals that demonstrate the highest level of downstream analytical maturity focus their attention on data capture, data quality, data integration, use of external data resources and data governance.

2. Value data as an asset.

Data may be an intangible asset, but forward-thinking organizations monitor, manage and protect data with the same level of diligence that is applied to traditional brick-and-mortar holdings.

In an analysis from Ocean Tomo, a leading consultant in the area of intellectual capital, the proportion of intangible assets has grown from about 17 percent to 81 percent in recent years, mainly due to information playing an increasingly important role in data-driven organizations1.

3. Establish a data governance policy.

Data brings risk – data breaches and ransomware attacks – and opportunity, as data assets become a competitive advantage. An enterprise-wide data governance policy balances the risk/reward ratio, and should answer these questions:

  • Who are the custodians of the data?
  • Who is accountable for the various aspects of the data, including its accuracy, accessibility, consistency and completeness?
  • How is the data stored, archived, backed up and protected from mishaps, theft or attack?
  • What audit procedures are in place to ensure ongoing compliance with government regulations?

4. Get started now.

Savvy healthcare leaders are not waiting for a universal data governance mandate. Instead, they invest early to deliver accurate and reliable data. This strategy allows for targeted analytical solutions that can be put into practice by clinicians and operating staff immediately. In doing so, efficient care organizations are able to move quickly and tackle the most pressing use cases for applied analytics.

In addition, healthcare leaders aren’t waiting for the changes that a new presidential administration will bring. While the only certainty seems to be uncertainty when looking ahead, the pressure to keep costs down and quality up aren’t going away. Paying for value requires payers and providers to use, share, and analyze data. Hospitals and other health organizations can’t afford to take a wait and see approach to get their data infrastructure in shape.

5. Leverage the ROI in organized data and analytics as a competitive differentiator.

Assuming all of the above milestones have been achieved, provider organizations are positioned to receive a compelling return on investment by putting that data to use. Why? Because the MACRA-driven push to value-based care requires providers to meaningfully measure and report on it. Data is baked into the healthcare cake. We can’t take it out now.

To create a basis for which predictive analytics can be applied in the future, it’s imperative that providers create a logical and efficient infrastructure for ongoing collection.

I never heard anything more from the hospital with the fancy magazine and not so fancy survey. But I sure hope they’ve given their data strategy serious thought – and just as important – serious action because they missed an opportunity. They didn’t execute end-to-end on their strategy, the result was an investment that didn’t have an opportunity or yield a full return.