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How human-centered analytics is driving improvement in healthcare

Saheli June 22, 2016 Technology Comments Off on How human-centered analytics is driving improvement in healthcare

Medical monitoring equipment showing heart rate

Smart ways to improve patient outcomes: Christopher Mazzei explores how Intermountain Healthcare empowers doctors to make data-informed choices that benefit patients and improve business results

The secret to analytics success is not technical prowess, it’s the human element. Fresh data insights only truly matter if you can use them to influence people’s behavior.

Many organizations have reached a point where their ability to generate data exceeds their ability to consume that information. They have built capacity for analytics production, not insight.

Leaders acknowledge this disconnect. In an EY survey of senior executives, 81% of respondents agreed that data should be at the heart of decision-making. But only 31% said they had significantly restructured their operations to incorporate analytics.

Intermountain Healthcare has been using analytics for decades: improving operations, driving better healthcare outcomes, and making a difference in patients’ lives. Today, Intermountain’s leaders see analytics as fundamental to creating value in three key areas:

Keeping data at the heart of the organization
In every business, there’s discussion about how to organize resources. Intermountain made a strategic decision to place its analytics teams close to frontline staff.

Today, most of its Clinical Programs have their own data teams. This ensures that Intermountain’s data and analytics experts stay very close to business problems – ensuring they can ask, and answer, better questions to drive results.

Learning loops streamline operations
By embedding analytics into business processes, Intermountain is able to create learning loops. Today, dozens of different data-based decision support tools help employees improve care for their patients.

Cardiology is a great example. Every time doctors treat a heart attack, data on the operation is shared with the treatment team as part of a rapid improvement process. By developing consistent, repeatable processes, this feedback helped reduce the median treatment time from 90 to 57 minutes.

Using data to ask smarter, better questions
Intermountain has created an environment where any employee can ask for analytics support. Encouraging them to ask questions – What does the data say about this treatment? What insights can I glean from this result? – has had a positive, lasting impact.

To foster and encourage this, Intermountain hired Brent James. A medical doctor with a Master’s in statistics, he was tasked with championing the use and impact of data to deliver results throughout the organization. He’s been there since 1986.

Getting everyone on board for data success

Strong leadership, as well as the right organizational and business processes, can help a company leverage analytics and align the use of data with organizational strategy. But successful execution still requires individuals to act.

At Intermountain, there are three key factors that help employees leverage analytics for positive impact:

Hands-on training in a data-orientated culture
Often when organizations talk about adding analytics capability, they are referring to analytics practitioners themselves. But it’s also needed on the front lines.

Identifying how to help employees consume and understand new insights is an important part of creating a data-oriented culture. At Intermountain, that meant improving doctors’ knowledge of data and analytics processes – and encouraging staff to act on the findings.

Letting data speak for itself
Intermountain recognized up front that persuading people to change their perceptions can require a coherent engagement strategy.

This is why Intermountain does not force those who disagree with analytical findings to fall into line. By letting the data speak for themselves, they are instead able to build loyalty to analytics processes, and increase adoption of more efficient approaches.

Incentives to drive positive behaviors
How an organization measures and rewards employee performance matters, and Intermountain’s approach acknowledges the importance of aligning incentives with desired behaviors.

This is why they are launching a new insurance product that will make physicians and Intermountain jointly responsible for health care efficiency. Doctors who adopt more efficient methods will earn more income, and the company thinks this incentive will help them focus on data-driven decision-making.

The human factor

An organization can have the best technology, the best analytics and the best insights – and still not create any business value.

This is because it still needs a human being to change a business decision or process using the insights that analytics can provide.

As Intermountain Healthcare demonstrates, a commitment to the human dimension can be key to driving return on analytics investments.

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