To get the most of EHRs, invest in advanced analytics

New advanced analytics platforms allow hospitals to use the data captured in all of their legacy technology investments to make more informed decisions.

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After nearly a decade of IT investment, many healthcare executives are challenged to quantify the ROI from these investments. In fact, the concerns are exacerbated by IT budgets that are growing faster than revenues.

A 2017 survey conducted by First American Healthcare Finance found two-thirds of U.S. hospitals will increase their technology budgets in 2018. More than a quarter of those hospitals — 27 percent — will increase their technology budgets by more than 5 percent. With a median health IT budget between 2 and 3.9 percent of a hospital’s total operating budget, this increase can amount to several hundred-thousand dollars for a hospital or even millions for larger healthcare organizations.

Given the rate at which legacy IT expenses are growing, many hospital administrators are hesitant to invest in additional technology when the ROI from their existing IT systems remains unclear. The ongoing cost associated with electronic health records (EHRs) compared to the value they deliver is a frequently cited example. The benefits to using EHRs across a healthcare organization are well documented: up-to-date and integrated patient information, quick access to patient-related data, reduced medical errors, improved efficiency for providers, increased patient participation, and reduced costs.

However, the reality is that despite high implementation rates, most EHR systems aren’t fully optimized. While these systems have been effective at providing real-time snapshots of today, they have come up short in helping hospital leaders exploit the vast amounts of data being created to better manage clinical, operational and financial outcomes.

One shortcoming is data accessibility. Reports within an EHR system are often difficult to access, often inaccessible by individuals who might benefit from the data. In addition, EHR reports tend to run on a predetermined schedule, limiting how the data within the EHR can be used to evaluate key performance indicators, populations studies, or long-term trends.

In addition, EHRs are often unable to “talk” with the other IT systems that support clinical, financial and operations activities. Data viewed in isolation can’t serve its full purpose. EHR data must be viewed and analyzed within context of data captured in other IT applications across the healthcare system.

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Forward-thinking organizations are looking at how the data embedded in EHRs and other IT systems can be used to improve their operations and margins. A recent KPMG poll found that EHR optimization is a priority and is the area in which leaders plan to make the majority of capital investment during the next three years.

Despite this, there is a general unease about adding more “IT cars to the train”. IT investments should be viewed in the broader context of harnessing the valuable information that is held hostage in individual IT systems, integrating these data and placing them at the fingers of the operating executives who need it to run their opreaitons better.

New advanced analytics platforms allow hospitals to use the data captured in all of their legacy technology investments to make more informed decisions. Analytic platforms have the ability to synthesize data from EHRs, bed management, case management, ED, workforce management, scheduling, and OR management systems to produce a bird’s eye view of operations, where staff can see the upstream and downstream effects of a single operational decision. The result: quality insights based on real-time data.

Billions of dollars have been spent on implementing and maintaining these technology systems. If the healthcare industry hopes to achieve and sustain measurable improvements in healthcare, it needs to make better and more strategic use of all the data that it captures every day for every patient. Analyzing all of the elements related to hospital performance allows administrators to set aside guesswork and instead make decisions driven by proven and repeatable data analysis.

The advent of ever-larger digital systems, shrinking healthcare margins, and increasing financial pressures are pushing the industry to find ways to unleash the value of its historical IT investments. Advanced analytics enable hospitals to optimize existing systems to improve decision support and, ultimately, drive significant ROI.

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