Here are experts' thoughts on how to ensure adequate returns on investment when deploying data analytics.
1. Start with What You Already Have. A team embarking on an analytics project doesn't need to start by collecting data. A plethora of information already exists in EHRs. "There's a lot of data out there that we don't act on — BMI, high blood pressure, smoking status, cholesterol — and that's readily available," said Jake Dorst, CIO and chief innovation officer of Truckee, Calif.-based Tahoe Forest Hospital District. "If you think creatively, you can really make an impact."
Brent Stutz, senior vice president of the innovation lab Fuse by Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health, highlighted how taking stock of available datasets can lead to novel ideas during the brainstorming phase of a project. "Make sure you save some budget aside or allow folks to be inquisitive," he said. "I think that's going to be an area that creates a lot of opportunity in an organization. Don't pin everything to a business case and ROI at least out of the gate, but allow people to use the data to be very inquisitive."
2. Identify the problem. The next step to developing an analytics project is identifying a concrete problem and determining whether the data strategy would prove fruitful. "Make sure you have a good business case for it," said Stephen Morgan, senior vice president and chief medical information officer of Roanoke, Va.-based Carilion Clinic. "A lot of times, and I'm assuming this is something everybody struggles with, we'll have solutions brought to us and we don't really have a problem."
Ian Christopher, chief technology officer and co-founder of the tech company Qventus, agreed. He shared how Qventus uses prescriptive analytics and machine learning to forecast how many patients will present at a given emergency room throughout the day. "There has to be that connection between the insight we've found and an action being taken," he said. "There has to be that kind of link between the two."
3. Define the metrics. Leaders must delineate how the project will improve outcomes or save money — and what metrics the team will measure to ensure it's on track. "That's our problem in the smaller environment," Mr. Dorst said. "It's really proving to the people with the checkbook that we can actually save some money."
Joshua Lee, MD, chief health information officer and vice president of Maywood, Ill.-based Loyola University Health System, also spoke to the role of metrics when gaining administrative buy-in. "You have to be very, very precise in the target that you're going after, that you're pretty sure from the outset is going to produce a measurable remunerative benefit, before you start," he said. "Plan the measurement before you start and build to the measure."
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