Survey responses indicated organizations are making progress in areas of focus. Improvement in operational effectiveness stemming from the use of analytics was deemed “somewhat favorable” or “very favorable” by 84% of respondents. For financial sustainability, the favorable response rate was 80%. No other area evaluated in the survey (enterprise risk, growth, real-time information and quality/safety) did better than 69%.
Part of the challenge of realizing a return on analytics can be tied to metrics. Specifically, 29% of respondents have no measures in place and 15% can measure value only on specific projects or performance reports. Additionally, over half of respondents stated strategy and analytics are only somewhat aligned or not aligned at all.
And yet despite limited understanding of analytical return and poor alignment in spend with system-level strategies, organizations appear poised to continue to make greater investments in analytics over the next two years, with 54% of respondents saying their organization’s investment will “increase somewhat” and 27% saying it will “increase significantly.”
How cultural factors affect the outlook for analytics
Of 221 responses to a question about organizational culture concerning analytics, 41% described the culture at their organization as “mainstream,” while 33% said it was “progressive.” Fewer respondents perceived their organization as being at either extreme, with 13% selecting “laggard” and 12% choosing “innovator.”
Based on the survey responses, acute care hospitals trail IDNs and physician practices in terms of analytics-focused innovation. Among respondents from acute care hospitals, 37% described their organization as “progressive” or “innovative” with respect to analytics, compared with 49% at IDNs and 55% at physician practices.
“It doesn’t happen overnight,” said Philip Lieffers, director of finance for Northern Physicians Organization, a Michigan-based group of independent physicians. “You need to find leaders that will take that mantle and really push it forward. We’re a nimble, small organization, and we have some really great folks who have worked with data in lots of different organizations and understand how it impacts outcomes.”
Inertia tends to set in at organizations across industries, said Bowen Lancaster, a facility CEO with Compass Health, a Louisiana-based provider of psychiatric health services. When that happens, incorporating analytics into the fabric of operations requires overcoming the human tendency to resist change.
“With pretty much everything in the industry nowadays,” Lancaster said, “you still have that mentality: ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it.’ They want to stick with that process even though maybe it hasn’t been getting the best results.
“The best way to handle cultural factors is to pretty much implement an entire cultural change at the facility, and that starts from the top down. You work with each member of your management staff. You make sure they understand the program and understand what they’re looking at, how to use it. Nothing puts up that wall faster than not truly understanding the product.”
Roadblocks to analytics implementation
Based on the survey, inhibitors of analytical progress were largely associated with two underlying challenges: cultural issues and suboptimal systems.
Nearly 30% of respondents identified “legacy/outdated systems” and “poor systems integration” as a core inhibitor to analytic success. “Outdated systems and poor integration can be directly tied to operational cost,” EPSi’s Gragg said. “They represent the avoidable cost that organizations carry from the point of occurrence to the point of identification. The longer a system takes to identify poor patterns of behavior after occurrence, the greater the financial exposure and the harder it becomes to break the bad patterns.”
Many industry leaders are becoming acutely aware of this challenge in data acquisition and analytics dissemination, as are the operational and clinical stakeholders who use the analytics. Jon Vitiello, senior vice president of financial operations and analytics at Mercy Health in Chesterfield, Missouri, is experiencing this trend. “We’re getting more efficient in our operations in our hospitals and clinics,” he said, “and we’re having those department directors and managers ask us, ‘How am I doing? I can’t wait until the end of the month or the end of the quarter. I’d like to know how I did yesterday, today.’”
Culture as a stand-alone inhibitor polled at 15% for respondents, outpaced by competition for resources (18%) and legacy/outdated systems (16%). But when incorporating other inhibitors that reflect poor culture — lack of executive understanding (6%), poor internal organization (5%), poor leadership (2%) and poor data governance (2%) — culture-based challenges comprise 30% of the issues precluding success.
“Poor culture also can be tied directly to operational cost,” Gragg said. “It represents the avoidable cost that organizations carry from the point of variance identification to the point of remediation. And this number can be significant.”
Yet cultural issues may be an underlying issue that goes unrecognized, said Kim Carter, director of coding, PB compliance and health information management with Legacy Health in Portland, Oregon.
“Is the culture telling a clinic manager to be out solving problems and available for her staff throughout the day, or is it requiring her to also be looking at the data to ensure that they’re meeting their targets for the day? It’s about getting a little bit more data-focused as we go along. That’s a cultural shift,” Carter said.