The very real work of implementing Affordable Care Act (ACA) protocols is wreaking havoc among IT departments across the healthcare industry. So it's as good a time as any to examine what healthcare organizations really need to do in the wake of the ACA.
I've dedicated my professional life to delivering on the promise of data for healthcare. Much of that time has been a slow uphill climb, until 2009 when the HITECH act was passed, then the Holy Grail, 2010, when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed and helped organizations realize what a critical player data is going to be in the future of healthcare.
While everyone agrees electronic health records and standardized data across the healthcare industry will contribute to improved care and lowered costs, the reality of implementing those changes, ushered in by the ACA, is difficult for organizations. To many it's like sitting in a dark movie theatre when someone yells "FIRE!" There's a rush to find and get through the door to the other side, but everyone is in the dark, kind of directionless and in a panic.
But it's not that healthcare organizations don't want to be strategic in the new post ACA landscape. It is just now there is very little time to do it well. To really implement changes that effect growth and success, healthcare organizations need to understand the critical steps necessary in building an ACA action plan, and one of the most important ways to succeed is to build a "Business Intelligence" program.
Sweat the Small Stuff, for Once
Since the ACA rolled on to the discussion agenda, legislators, healthcare leaders and everyone in between have debated and discussed the big picture policy. But there's been an absence of practical focus on the actual strategies and tactics necessary to implement many of the Act's changes at ground level. The clock is now ticking and organizations must deal with the details - formulating a real-world plan for making real changes in the way they collect, analyze and use data.
One Team, One Goal, Inside and Out
In the recent Healthcare BI Summit, attendees identified one major issue in the evolving landscape, and it's internal-the ongoing challenges and hurdles faced by management teams and IT departments that do not value the other's opinion. Before you do anything to re-tool data practices, it's critical to ensure leadership and technology functions are marching in time and heading in one defined direction. No transition process can exist without this.
Create Analytics Function Now
Analytics and data science is now and will continue to be the healthcare data buzzword of 2014, but don't wait until then to either start or upgrade an analytics function. As more organizations turn to data to drive operational and business decisions in all aspects of the healthcare continuum, a sophisticated analytics program and team is essential. The challenge can be finding the right, skilled and experienced resources.
Standardize + Visualize
There are hundreds of data interaction points in the life of a healthcare data stream. From patient onboarding to exam note taking and billing, and from clinic to hospital, lack of data standardization and common systems to interpret the data is one of the biggest challenges to operational effectiveness in the electronic record keeping age. Organizations must take a macro view across all functions and departments to create systems and protocols that provide easy, efficient user experiences at every stage. Visualizing that data will ensure that a broader set of decision makers have access to dashboards and easy visual analytics reporting will be a key factor in successful data experiences.
Train Talent, Organize Structure
As organizations do all of this, their talent and partner needs are going to change. There may be significant impacts on the structure of departments assigned to process data and on the organizations themselves. It's critical to the future success of any healthcare business intelligence program to make a talent recruitment, growth and retention plan that serves the data need for the organizations' long term success a priority in 2014 and beyond.
Laura Madsen is a sought-after speaker and expert on Business Intelligence Programs in the healthcare industry and author of "Healthcare Business Intelligence: A Guide to Empowering Successful Data Reporting and Analytics."