IT Forefront

4 key elements of an advanced analytics plan

by Greg Kuhnen and Andrew Rebhan

Analytics is a familiar topic for IT leaders, but it's evolving rapidly, opening up new opportunities in the health care industry. Electronic health records, biomedical devices, patient supplied data, and new diagnostic technologies such as genomics have dramatically expanded the pool of data that health systems can analyze.

To provide value, raw data need to be turned into actionable information. Recent progress in advanced analytical techniques, including machine learning, text analytics, big data, and predictive and prescriptive modeling have made it easier to turn raw data into high-value information. These techniques, coupled with the influx of new data, can provide powerful insight for improving clinical and financial results, as well as patient satisfaction.

Organizations should have a strategic plan to guide the implementation of their analytics program. Progressing through the different levels of analytics maturity (e.g., descriptive, predictive, prescriptive) delivers increasing competitive advantage, but also demands greater IT sophistication and organizational commitment. Health systems need to build up several capabilities when preparing for an advanced analytics program, including a robust architecture, governance structure, self-service business intelligence (BI) capabilities, and data sources.

Here are four steps on how to plan and execute your analytics strategy:

1. Start by assessing your current state. Most organizations start out at the Fragmented stage, before progressing to higher stages of maturity that include Enterprise, Advanced Analytics, and Intelligent Process Automation. No organization falls cleanly into one level of maturity, and it may be difficult to determine which column best describes your maturity for a given capability. The process of evaluation is as important as the score, as it helps identify gaps or deficiencies that need to be resolved to improve your capabilities.

2. Address deficiencies identified during your assessment. Your initial business assessment can highlight a number of deficiencies regarding staff skills, culture, or organizational structure. For instance, every high-functioning BI program we spoke with last year emphasized the importance of distributing governance and application steward roles out to the service lines—but your organization might not be at that point yet.

IT has a critical role to play with distributed ownership, with unique strengths in process management, change control, and project management that are key to facilitating these groups. Most organizations designate a handful of leads—drawn heavily from IT—to run governance committees. While distributed governance may be the clear choice, leadership structures are more varied. As BI becomes a strategic differentiator, there has been a trend towards creating Chief Analytics or Chief Data Officer roles, but reporting structures are inconsistent. The right owner depends on your current strengths and strategic objectives.

3. Define your business opportunities. BI plans start with business objectives. BI is no longer differentiated by tools and technology as much as asking the right analytical questions and setting the right priorities. There are a number of ways to do this: recruit leaders and staff from across the system to nominate projects for consideration; start small and prioritize to build momentum from successes; use IT to help refine and cost specific initiatives; and develop a "burning" platform to encourage investment in foundational capabilities.

4. Execute the plan and adjust. You can't manage what you don't measure. After establishing an organizational structure, you need to be ready to execute your plan and adjust accordingly. Analytics processes need to be responsive and reliable or they will be underutilized or ignored. There is a growing use of agile software principles in BI projects, such as continuous collaboration, embracing change, and delivering early and often. These principles aim to maximize business value, accommodate changing business needs, and deliver at predictable cost and on a predictable timeline. The idea is to organize projects around small, consistent deliverables that address the current priorities of the business.

Your business development analytics road map

Navigating your strategic growth priorities is a difficult process, and you might be considering a variety of options. Whichever path you decide to take, you’ll need the right metrics to guide you along the way.

With its multidimensional physician and procedural data, analytics for physician referral relationships, and expert support and insight, Crimson Market Advantage will safely direct you to your desired destination.

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