From The Editor | August 31, 2012

BI & Analytics: The Next Big Thing In Healthcare?

By Ken Congdon, editor in chief, Health IT Outcomes
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Most health IT providers have been consumed with EHR adoption and implementation over the past several years. The focus on EHRs will likely continue into 2014, as criteria for Meaningful Use continues to emerge and hospitals sure up their EHR systems. However, a new report from Frost & Sullivan shows that business analytics (BI) and data analytics tools may be the next health IT craze might be as EHRs inch closer to universal adoption. According to the report titled “U.S. Hospital Health Data Analytics Market,” only 10% of U.S. hospitals implemented health data analytics tools in 2011, but this number is expected to surge to approximately 50% adoption by 2016 — a 37.9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

Much like the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act of 2009 spurred EHR adoption with its Meaningful Use incentive program, PPACA (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) is expected to drive interest in data analytics by providing hospitals with improved visibility and control of their data. This type of enhanced data insight will likely be sought after by health providers as payment models change under healthcare reform to reward positive patient outcomes and coordinated care.

“The future healthcare landscape will require providers to have a much better understanding of their cost structure, patient satisfaction, and clinical trends and benchmarking in order to thrive,” says Connie Moser, VP of performance analytics at McKesson. “BI and analytics tools will be instrumental at providing this data visibility. Without it, providers will be lost.”

Hurdles To BI & Analytics Adoption

While the need to improve quality measures and cut costs is driving the adoption of performance analytics technologies, a few challenges could prevent the rapid uptick anticipated by Frost & Sullivan.

  1. Cost – BI & Analytics tools are yet another technology investment to add to hospital’s already lengthy IT wish list. Furthermore, the costs associated with implementing these technologies is not insignificant. Between implementation and annual licensing/subscription fees, the cost of a performance analytics system can cost well into six figures. This hefty investment may be difficult for some health providers to justify.
  2. Data Integration — Most hospitals currently leverage EHRs in some fashion, but many still silo their health data. In other words, several EHR or clinical systems are used simultaneously within a hospital or health system, and most of these systems don’t communicate with one another. Many healthcare providers believe that they need to fully integrate these systems using HIE technologies before they can get a true return on a data analytics investment.
  3. Standards Immaturity — A lack of recognized and consistent health data standards contributes to the data integration challenge and could affect the advancement of data analytics use in healthcare.

Analytics Adds Value, Even With Limited Data

While obstacles to data analytics adoption in healthcare do exist, the tangible benefits the technology can provide are unmistakable. Furthermore, according to Moser, no time is too soon to begin implementing BI and performance analytics tools.

“Given the BI and performance analytics toolsets on the market today, there are ways to get quick time to value with a very limited data set,” she says. “For example, start with the information you know you have — such as financial and operational data — and optimize it using performance analytics. With this relatively small data sample, you can identify and improve financial problem areas, communicate more effectively with staff, and better manage patient flow.”

However, the true value of performance analytics clearly comes into play once relevant clinical data is fed into the system. “Some hospitals we work with have virtually eliminated ventilator acquired pneumonia (VAP) using our performance analytics toolset,” says Moser. “The system allows providers to identify patients at risk for VAP and alerts clinicians when a patient enters a danger zone for acquiring an infection. With this information, a hospital can proactively deploy employees to swab the vents within a specific time window and prevent infections from occurring.”