Improving LTPAC through business intelligence and analytics

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Rob Kerr, Hartman Executive Advisors
Rob Kerr, Hartman Executive Advisors

In our continually evolving healthcare landscape, data analytics is key to growing and sustaining a successful long-term post-acute care organization. Many organizations collect raw data using a variety of methods, but it often goes unused if it's not directly related to business goals. When an LTPAC organization makes the decision to use business intelligence tools to become data-driven, they can work toward 

  • Providing better service for their residents
  • Positioning themselves ahead of their competition
  • Partnering with hospitals, vendors and other key constituents across the healthcare continuum

Business intelligence is a set of data analytics tools that allow leaders to make timely and accurate decisions on everything from hiring staff to investing in new technology. As the population ages, the demand for LTPAC organizations to provide higher quality care continues to increase. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Department of Community Living, those 65 and older represented 14.5% of the population in 2014, and that number is expected to grow to almost 22% by 2040.

In LTPAC, as in many other industries, there is a common misconception that data analytics is a challenge to be handled by the IT department with little interference from the C-suite. However, not only is there a strong connection between data and level of care, but understanding an organization's data can lead to the resolution of underlying business bottlenecks that impede success. This understanding of and attention to data can also inform business strategy and drive innovation at an executive level.

LTPAC executives ready to embark on a path toward business intelligence may find themselves overwhelmed with raw data, either drowning in details they don't understand or unable to determine exactly what they should be collecting in the first place.

That is why the first step toward business intelligence in LTPAC is to determine the questions that need to be answered, the ones that will deliver the information necessary to drive the transformation. The second step is to ensure that the data is consistently and accurately captured and analyzed.

Get the right metrics by asking the right questions

There are countless metrics an organization can measure, from the time a resident's medication takes to arrive once their doctor provides a prescription, to the hours of nursing staff overtime. Before an organization can gather and measure anything with a number, they first need to be sure they're asking the right questions and that these questions align closely with the organization's goals, plans and objectives.

There are five key criteria executives can go through to help develop the right questions:

  1. Alignment: Does the metric align with my goals and strategic plan?

  2. Value: Does the metric have broad impact?

  3. Scope: Do I know when the metric is too high or too low and in which conditions?

  4. Actionable: Does the value of the metric trigger a clear action?

  5. Clear/Verifiable: Is this metric clear and meaningful? Is its value trusted and verifiable?

Capture the data effectively

Once the questions are set, it's time to collect the numbers. To avoid unnecessary errors and setbacks, your plan should include the following:

  1. Knowledge of exactly what you need to collect. What numbers do you need to answer the question to its fullest? Are you collecting billing, encounter or charge data, or EHR and clinical data?

  2. Easy access to that information. Do your systems talk to each other? If not, you may need to make some adjustments. Without this, collection could become difficult and time-consuming. This step will most likely require insight from your IT department.

  3. Identification of who will collect the data and clarification of the reasons they are collecting it. Perhaps your nursing supervisors will need to track and report overtime in a new way. How will you explain this to them? If they cannot clearly see their role in the process and understand how the work you're asking them to do fits into the mission of the organization, they may have a difficult time adjusting to new procedures.

  4. An understanding of how to analyze the data after it is collected. Before you start, know how the data will be analyzed and who will do the work. This will allow you to focus on the main characteristics and patterns in your data, while drawing sound conclusions to answer your questions.

The definition and use of business intelligence varies between LTPAC organizations, but one common thread is that it's easy for executives to feel overwhelmed when it comes to strategy around technology and data analytics. Rather than go it alone, LTPAC executives should build a team who can help set the right strategy from the start. The best team will include individuals from both inside and outside the organization to offer the most diverse perspectives. These individuals can include someone from a parent company, the board or third-party advisors. With the right team in place, organizations will set themselves up for long-term success by taking action to collect and analyze critical data related to their residents, staff and business operations.

Rob Kerr is a chief information officer and managing director of the health care practice at Hartman Executive Advisors, an independent, strategic technology advisory firm based in Baltimore, Md. He can be reached at rkerr@hartmanadvisors.com.​

 




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