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5 priorities for health systems in 2019

In 2019, we will see executives focus on achieving new levels of operational clarity to ensure the continued financial viability of their hospital.

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Healthcare is one of the last major industries to use data to drive operational efficiency. In fact, billions of IT dollars have been spent on clinical systems with the promise of improved care through the consolidation of a patient’s medical history, enabling access to evidence-based decision support tools and streamlining provider workflows. However, most hospital leaders still rely on spreadsheets and experience to make critical operational decisions that also affect patient care. In 2019, we will see executives focus on achieving new levels of operational clarity to ensure the continued financial viability of their hospital. These priorities include:

  1. Understand volume isn’t THE solution.

 According to the Bloomberg Health-care Efficiency Index, the U.S. is one of the most inefficient healthcare systems ranking next-to-last out of 56 countries analyzed worldwide. Related, a 2018 Kauffman Hall survey revealed that cost reduction is a top priority in healthcare with almost a third of senior finance professionals reporting the identification and management of cost-reduction initiatives is their organization’s most important performance management function.

Increased volume is often cited as a means to improve efficiency. Volume alone isn’t a panacea for inefficiency; it’s actually a means to make up revenue. Instead, hospital leaders must have a realistic understanding of their actual demand and effectively distribute it across their network to maximize utilization of their resources (e.g. staff, operating rooms and patient beds) to improve efficiency and drive profitability. This effort will take hard work, creativity and collaboration, but leaders that can align their resources to actual demand will improve efficiency, create a competitive advantage and improve the bottom line.

  1. Predictive analytics delivers greater value.

In 2019, the promise of predictive analytics will become mainstream. After years of hearing how predictive analytics could benefit healthcare, many organizations will be sharing how it has helped them. Early results from both the clinical and operation arenas are encouraging. Predictive analytics have been used for early detection and identification of Sepsis patients, enabling patients to receive antibiotics 25% sooner than in the past. This has reduced the mortality rate by nearly 20%. On the operational side, hospitals are using predictive capabilities to improve key metrics in procedural areas, such as room and chair utilization, case volume and patient wait times. Predictive analytics are giving hospital leaders another way to grow volume without increasing costs.

  1. Look outside EHRs for additional value. 

A 2017 Health Catalyst survey reported that 61 percent of healthcare professionals were dissatisfied with the ROI received from their electronic health records (EHRs). They were created for clinical documentation, not analysis and reporting. Because the data is isolated, healthcare leaders are unable to understand overall performance while physicians lack comprehensive information about their patients.

But last year, a breakthrough: A 2018 survey by Spok reported that 78 percent of CIOs surveyed had integrated patient monitoring data, including EKG data, bedside blood pressure and blood glucose with other data systems. This success influenced additional technology investments. In 2018, almost three-quarters of CIOs committed to making technology investments based on the need to achieve EHR integration. A follow-up revealed that the majority of investment went toward advanced analytics. Hospital leaders will continue to look beyond EHRs to gain additional value from their data to facilitate a more data-driven culture.

  1. Maintain focus on patient experience and satisfaction

The consumerization of healthcare means organizations can no longer rely on patients coming to them for treatment simply because they participate in their insurance plan or on the recommendation of their primary care physician. Higher premiums and copays, as well as increased competition, prompt patients to be more in control and engaged with available healthcare options. If they aren’t satisfied, they will take their business elsewhere.

Since patient satisfaction scores are tied to reimbursement, it’s essential hospitals treat patients as customers whose business must be earned day in and day out. One major contributor to patient satisfaction is transparency regarding wait times and the elimination of bottlenecks. Hospitals that are able to understand demand patterns and predict future demand to improve scheduling of fixed resources (beds, rooms and chairs) as well as the workforce can reduce wait times for patients and improve the overall experience.

  1. Obtain buy-in from physicians.

Shifting market dynamics, such as bundled payments, reimbursement policies and decreasing operating margins are causing some hospital administrators to hold physicians accountable for performance metrics. This can create an “us vs. them” dynamic furthering the divide between facility leaders and physicians.

Change management is difficult enough. To achieve physician cooperation, it’s imperative that healthcare executives work collaboratively with physicians to communicate why changes must occur in order to achieve shared goals. A starting point is ensuring trust in data and agreeing on key performance metrics. Once this alignment is achieved, hospital leaders and physicians can collaborate and plan the best ways to achieve these shared goals to ensure a win-win for all parties.

The continued move to a value-based model in healthcare and uncertainty about reimbursements has put unrelenting pressure on healthcare executives to cut costs and improve operational performance while continuing to deliver outstanding patient care. The year ahead holds great promise and potential, one that will see a tipping point in how hospitals and health systems address their more complex operational challenges. An investment in operational systems that use predictive analytics and artificial intelligence can be a valuable decision support tool for hospitals as they work to improve their operations.

 

 

 

As CEO of Hospital IQ, Rich uses technology to limit waste in the healthcare industry and help hospitals provide outstanding care to as many patients as possible. He has a proven track record of developing and commercializing new technologies, and has been directly involved in software products that continue to solve major industry problems and generate over $100m per year in revenue. Prior to joining Hospital IQ, Rich was the founder and CEO of DynamicOps, a cloud automation software company that was acquired by VMware in 2012. He also held executive roles at companies like Incipient, Continuum Software, Conley Corporation, and Discreet Logic’s Stone+Wire Division. Rich earned his MBA and MS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a BS from Rutgers University.

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