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Five former obstacles healthcare BI can move past

Find out why detractors are wrong to judge BI platforms as technologically sophisticated, time-consuming and inflexible.

Hospital CIOs continue to look to analytics and healthcare business intelligence to hold steady amid shrinking reimbursements and to meet demands to cut costs while improving patient care. Data mining is a favored method for many executives as means to measure, track and enhance their business performance.

Whether it is by reviewing historical trends, performing accurate forecasting, or improving patient outcomes, healthcare business intelligence (BI) platforms offer an opportunity for CIOs to achieve some of their organizational objectives. Unfortunately, some health IT executives still face significant internal resistance to getting everyone to view these analytics and healthcare BI tools as worthwhile.

Despite the popularity of BI tools and big data analytics, there are a number of common challenges preventing their adoption. Many objections voiced by executives and other staff can be attributed to resistance to change or being misinformed about how these tools help achieve departmental goals. Below are five common myths about why organizations are resistant to adopt these platforms, and why they should reconsider their stance based on BI moving past these challenges.

Myth one: Tracking BI data is too complex

A common explanation of why a medical practice has not adopted some of the dashboards available through their EHR vendors is that their navigational complexity requires time to learn. Implementation of BI must start with the strong belief that greater visibility into data gives an organization better insight into how effectively it operates. This mindset affords companies the chance to improve areas in which their BI tools show they are weak.  While it can seem intimidating at first, tracking dashboards, scorecards and key performance indicators is relatively simple and consistent once they are customized. Seeking visibility of logistics, patient care, billing and staff productivity is the responsibility of a person, but the technology used must present meaningful data that is relevant to its viewer.

Myth two: Dashboards are only for executives

Speedometers and temperature gauges are available to all car owners, not just racecar drivers. Similarly, everyone within an organization -- not just upper management -- must be able to measure the effectiveness of their department's work using business dashboards. With such tools, billing representatives can monitor their individual progress based on the timeliness of filed claims and collections, while nurses can monitor patients' feedback based on survey results. Physicians can also leverage clinical responses to track and measure patient outcomes and ensure the right care is delivered.

Myth three: Analytics apply to only a few systems

Open source is popular, and open architecture rewards software developers. Long gone are the days in which organizations attempt to hide their data from outsiders. Even some of the biggest EHR vendor systems that maintain extreme security offer a path to perform data mining and analytics. Regardless of the format, most BI tools are able to process large amounts of data and offer insights to users. With the addition of new data processing capabilities, data can be analyzed even when it is in an unstructured format, such as in transcriptions, progress notes and other data points. This shift has opened the door for new analytics capabilities that tap into far more data and deliver more value to users.

Myth four: BI processing takes too long

Historically, it was common for systems to push data sets to secondary systems overnight in order to perform data manipulating and processing offline and deliver the summaries later. Fortunately, those delays are no longer required by most of today's systems. With scalable processing power and robust storage platforms, many modern systems are able to deliver near real-time analytics. This feature allows users of BI tools to gain insight into relevant data points and help them make business decisions more quickly.

Myth five: End users can't easily interact with BI platforms

Too many BI conversations start with: "What types of dashboards do you need to have in front of you?" Instead, the discussion should start by asking: "How do you currently track and measure the effectiveness of your department?" The second question homes in on what the group requires to be successful. Once that information is established, BI tools are only a means to represent the data and make it available quickly. Today's marketplace offers far more self-service functionality than ever before. Putting the end users in the driver seat enables them to tinker with their dashboards and reporting. This drives more adoption of BI platforms and reduces the demand on IT to customize reports. End users know better than anyone what they need to monitor their progress.

BI platforms continue to improve by becoming more intelligent and data-aware. The healthcare industry can deploy these platforms to get closer to meeting its aggressive goals. ACOs are one group in particular that could benefit from implementing healthcare BI tools. First, they must find a way to offset the cost and data silo challenges commonly -- though often mistakenly -- associated with BI.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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