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Moving beyond the hype of analytics in health care

As a long time sailor, I would never leave port without knowing the weather, tides, sea conditions, and my expected course. Once underway, I count on a flow of information from my GPS, charts, radar, and other instruments to safely navigate the waters. Sailing without these aids might work on a calm, sunny day, but conditions can change quickly.

Our US health care environment can be likened to a stormy and unpredictable sea. It often amazes me how many health systems continue to sail their ships blindly. We talk about analytics but, as an industry, we are still just scratching the surface of that capability. When we will get beyond the hype and make serious investments that are now the standard in nearly every other industry?

Analytics, the systematic use of technologies, methods, and data to derive insights to enable fact-based decision-making, is viewed by many health care providers as essential to success in new value-based care arrangements. Some believe that the right analytics strategy will help them manage through many of the modern day problems of the typical US health system—from lowering unit costs, managing quality, and identifying at-risk populations to connecting with consumers and better understanding organizational performance.

As attention to analytics increases, what is driving investments and priorities? Are health systems making smart investments on analytics capabilities that may steer their organizations into the future or are they placing all their bets on outdated tools and technology?

The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions conducted a survey of mid-sized and large health systems (revenue greater than $500 million) to understand their current capabilities, investment priorities, and analytics approach and how analytics is moving from buzzword to actual investment. In Health system analytics: The missing key to unlock value-based care, respondents indicated that while success in value-based care will likely depend on effective analytics programs, their approach is fragmented, with limited coordination at the enterprise level. Other key findings include:

2015 US Hospital and Health System Analytics Survey

Findings from the survey suggest that value-based care is a major driver and investment focus for analytics. Improving clinical outcomes, population health, and supporting new payment models are among other top drivers. Several respondents indicated their current analytics capabilities are limited to reporting, data warehousing, and business intelligence. However, adding forecasting and advanced analytics capabilities, particularly for clinical and population health analytics are among top priorities. Those who have invested in more mature capabilities, such as forecasting, report greater success with analytics for their business functions. And, the more success organizations achieve, the more likely they are to invest in additional advanced analytics and benefit in the future.

Despite these investment priorities, some respondents indicated they do not have a clear picture of their organization’s total investment and spending on analytics. Fifteen out of the 50 respondents said they are unsure about their current and projected spending on analytics. This may be explained by an incoherent approach to the issue. Thirty out of the 50 respondents did not believe their organization has a clear, integrated strategy and vision for analytics deployment. Further, organizations indicated culture and politics and fragmented ownership as top barriers to adoption. These issues are realities for many health care systems today.

It is still yet to be seen where health systems’ analytics strategies will be in three-to-five years. Many health systems have capital exhaustion, especially around IT, but are not yet making meaningful investments in analytics. In the coming years the vast majority of health systems will need to respond to industry issues such as value-based care, consumerism, and increased regulation. Sailing the ship blindly will not be an option.

Read more: Health system analytics: The missing key to unlock value-based care

Read the entire Health Care Current here and subscribe to receive weekly updates.


Author bio

Dr. Mitch Morris is the Vice Chair and Global Leader for the Health Care Sector at Deloitte, including Consulting, Audit, Tax, and Financial Advisory Services. Dr. Morris has more than 30 years of health care experience in consulting, health care administration, research, technology, education, and clinical care. Earlier, he served as a Senior VP of health systems and CIO at MD Anderson Cancer Center where he was also Professor in Gynecologic Oncology and in Health Services Research.