At a Glance

  • In an era of reform, providers are examining more forward-thinking business intelligence strategies, according to a recent study.
  • Enterprise business intelligence tool sets offer a breadth of design and functionality that often are capable of serving the enterprise.
  • One limitation of broader tool sets is that they may lack needed application-specific functionality or prebuilt healthcare content for a specific department.

The future of health care—one shaped by reform, a move towardvalue-based business models, and the need to reduce costs across all areas of operations—is quickly approaching. To prepare, forward-looking healthcare executives are seeking to fill the healthcare knowledge gap related to clinical care, costs, and performance with business intelligence solutions.

“If hospitals can’t produce data analytics in the next couple of years, they are going to suffer,” says one healthcare CIO interviewed by KLAS Research for a recent report on providers’ business intelligence capabilities (BI Perception 2012: A Wave Is Coming, April 2012) .

Due to the massive wave of change coming by way of regulations, cost constraints, and the need for health systems to maintain a competitive advantage, energy around healthcare business intelligence is increasing at a frenetic pace.

Regulatory reporting requirements, an increased emphasis on quality, and the drive to adapt to new financial models are prompting healthcare providers to dive deeper into their clinical, financial, and operational data. Even those providers that are not pursuing meaningful use incentives are under pressure to increase efficiency and lower costs—difficult objectives that often demand rich analytical tools. Robust analytics have moved from a “nice to have” to “must have” capability for nearly every type of healthcare provider.

Clinical quality management is one of the first places healthcare providers areputting their attention. Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements place increased focus on this area, and providers are realizing more and more that they need to look beyond the four walls of their organizations to better understand and manage clinical quality. They are seeking business intelligence solutions that have flexibility to meet reporting initiatives and to go beyond. Predictive analytics, data modeling, forecasting, trending, and other advanced analytical functionality are all important.

This quest for enhanced efficiency is motivating health-care providers to examine more forward-thinking business intelligence strategies than ever before.

Providers’ Plans for Business Intelligence

More than half of the providers KLAS interviewed for its business intelligence report indicated they intend to replace or purchase a business intelligence solution in the next three years. Only 1 percent werecompletely unsure of their plans for improving business intelligence capabilities, which indicates that nearly all providers are consciously evaluating their business intelligence strategy and weighing their options (see the exhibit below).

Exhibit 1


In addition to prioritizing clinical efficiency and improvement, providers today require enhanced financial visibility to understand costs across care settings because of changing payment models and the emphasis on improving value. The vast majority of providers (83 percent) are pursuing a go-forward enterprise business intelligence strategy—one that offers a breadth of design and functionality that can serve the entire enterprise. One particular interest among the surveyed providers is in data integrity at the core, which is bringing more attention to anenterprise data warehouse strategy.

In general, larger health systems and academic medical centers tend to lean toward these enterprise business intelligence tool sets. But often, these broader tool sets lack needed application-specific functionality or prebuilt healthcare content for a specific department—functionality that providers are finding critical to their needs (see the exhibit below).

Exhibit 2


Get Specific, or Stick with Broad Strokes?

Healthcare-specific business intelligence solutions tend to differ from traditional business intelligence tool sets in that they are more prepackaged andrelatively easier to implement. Most providers prefer the prepackaging and simplicity of such solutions, but few actually considered them for purchase, believing they cannot yet adequately deliver the enterprise capabilities needed to handle clinical, financial, and operational data.

“The space has to mature. We are not going to go buy a prebuilt system,” said one vice president of business intelligence. “We might buy it to do certain things, but it is still not going to do all the other enterprise reporting.

Vendors are responding by building more healthcare content, templates, and data models. Those focusing on the large (enterprise) end of the market are taking steps to make their solutions more healthcare focused and healthcare ready, and some currently offer next-generation solutions

However, some providers are waiting for enterprise solutions to mature and thus are giving more consideration to business intelligence applications specific to initiatives and departments, such as quality reporting. It is not uncommon among the surveyed providers to find a health system with an enterprise business intelligence solution that is also using some kind of clinical- quality or application-focused business intelligence solutions for, say, population management, physician performance, or benchmarking.

Small and mid-size organizations don’t want to be left behind during the push for analytics. Although generally not as progressive as larger health systems, these organizations still are evaluating their business intelligence options as they face their own challenges. Unlike large health systems and academic medical centers, smaller healthcare providers may not have as many IT resources to set up and run a business intelligence solution, much less multiple solutions. However, they often have data in high volumes and with similar complexity to those of larger organizations, so they are seeking robust business intelligence systems that do not require the same amount of resources as larger tool sets.

In a world where consolidation and standardization currently mark a visible trend for acute-care electronic health records and healthcare IT in general, it is not yet certain how departmental business intelligence will fare against enterprise business intelligence

Exhibit 3


Getting More Attention: Real Time and Predictive Analytics

An essential part of the business intelligence equation for many providers is real-time—even forward-looking—data analysis. Of those looking for a new business intelligence solution, 42 percent have predictive analytics on their list, with the goal of using real-time data to get a glimpse into future potential workflow, efficiency, and ROI.

Predicting and preparing for the world of tomorrow is no easy task. Reliably forecasting outcomes, events, and patterns will in most cases require not only;

substantial data, but clean and correct data, along with sophisticated models and analysis. Despite these hurdles, only 35 percent of the providers looking to replace or purchase a business intelligence solution plan to seek third-party help from business intelligence consulting firms. The consulting firms considered in such cases were often smaller shops with a niche focus on business intelligence, as opposed to larger consulting firms that healthcare providers often consider for healthcare IT consulting projects, according to the report.

Waiting for a Leader to Emerge;

With a world of change coming, healthcare models evolving, and providers looking to adapt and succeed, there’s no doubt business intelligence will become even more critical over time. However, providers perceive homogeneity within the market and haven’t yet found the differentiation and leadership they seek in a clear business intelligence leader. More than half of the providers interviewed could not identify any vendor they felt was boldly breaking new ground or close to developing the robust, do-it-all product the market wants.

“We have dashboards and report cards all over the place. If there were something that could really pull it all together, that would be great. But I am just not sure something like that exists,” said one CFO interviewed for the report.

Make no mistake: Most business intelligence vendors are scrambling to develop as quickly as possible, with the goal to be the knight in shining armor that providers want. However, it remains to be seen which will be the first to step up and deliver the mature, robust, enterprise-centric business intelligence solution for which healthcare providers are searching.

Joe Van De Graaff is research director, KLAS Research,Orem, Utah (

Austin Cameron is research analyst/writer, KLAS Research, Orem, Utah (

Publication Date: Friday, February 01, 2013

Login Required

If you are an existing member, please log in below. Username and password are required.



Forgot User Name?
Forgot Password?

If you are not an HFMA member and would like to access portions of our content for 30 days, please fill out the following.

First Name:

Last Name:


   Become an HFMA member instead