As physicians, we're taught to practice evidence-based medicine where the evidence comes primarily from trade journals that document double blind, randomized control trials. Or, perhaps we turn to society meetings, problem-based learning discussions (PBLD), or peer group discussion forums. We are dedicated to finding ways to improve patient outcomes and experience, yet we miss huge opportunities every day.
We are lost in a sea of data, left to debate continuous process improvement with ‘gut feelings’ and opinions. We do the ‘best we can’ because we lack the ability to glean meaningful perspective from our daily actions. As an anesthesiologist, I know there's a wonderful opportunity for analytics to make a difference in our surgical patients’ experience, and I can only imagine there are similar opportunities in other specialties.
Here are three undeniable reasons analytics should matter to every physician:
Quality compliance is here to stay, and it’s only becoming more onerous. In 2015, the CMS-mandated Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) finally transitioned from bonus payments to 2 percent penalties. It also raised the reporting requirements from 3 metrics to 9 metrics across 3 domains, including 2 outcome measures.
Unfortunately, in the absence of the right technology, compliance is too often considered just another costly burden. We’re relegated to either rely on unresponsive 3rd party vendors to update our software or else we’re forced to hire additional human resources to ‘count beans’. More frustratingly, we rarely see these efforts translate into meaningful change for the patients we serve. We arrive at the erroneous conclusion that these efforts only increase costs while offering no tangible benefits.
What if our technology was flexible enough to keep up with changing regulations while also making us faster and more intelligent at our jobs? How would this change our perception of regulatory requirements? Thankfully such solutions exist, and with our input they can and should be adopted.
It’s too easy for providers to limit themselves to the “practice of medicine” – diagnosing and treating patients – and disengage from the management of our individual practices. We do ourselves a disservice because, as physicians, we have a significant advantage when it comes to interpreting the ever-increasing government regulations and applying them to our patients’ needs. There is often latitude in this interpretation, which ultimately gives rise to incorrect assumptions and unnecessary work. When we assume the responsibility for setting the definitions, we gain control over the metrics and consequently influence their interpretations.
By engaging in our analytics, we’re equipped to speak more convincingly with administration, we gain independence from poor implementations, and we gain freedom from added inefficiencies. We lose the all-too-common “victim perspective”, and we return to a position of influence in how and why we practice the way we do. Through analytics, we are better positioned to improve our patients’ experiences, and that can be incredibly gratifying.
Transform Your Industry
This ability to leverage real-time analytics has already transformed other industries. In retail, the best companies deliver exceptional service because their sales representatives know exactly who we are, what we’ve purchased, how we’ve paid, when we’ve paid, etc. Because they know our individual preferences at the point of sale, they deliver first-class customer service. Consider the example of Target, who used predictive analytics to identify which customers were pregnant simply from analyzing their transactional data, thus allowing them to intelligently advertise to a compelling market segment.
Imagine leveraging this same capability within the realm of surgical services. What if we could deliver individualized patient education at the time it’s needed. For example, a text message the evening before surgery reading, “It’s now time to stop eating.” Or, an automated message when the patient arrives to the surgical facility, stating, “Here’s a map to the registration desk”. There are plenty of opportunities to leverage mobility and connectivity to deliver personalized care throughout the surgical experience. Further, by analyzing the data generated during the course of that surgical experience, what if we could predict who was likely to be dissatisfied before they even complained. Could we automatically alert guest relations for a service recovery before the patient is discharged? There’s no doubt - of course, we can! We just need appropriate management of our surrounding data.
Through analytics we have the ability to secure our compensation, gain more control of our practices, and transform our industry by improving outcomes, improving the patient experience, and reducing costs.
When we’re equipped with analytical capabilities that are real-time, interactive, individualized, and mobile, we've implemented a framework with truly transformative power. We've enabled a dramatic reduction in the turnaround time for continuous process improvement. As regulatory requirements continue to increase in complexity, we have the opportunity to either work smarter using more intelligent tools or else surrender to an unfriendly future. Fellow practitioners, I much prefer the former.
What questions do you have? What’s your view of analytics?