05 Oct 2017

Evidence-based management – How imaging businesses can leverage data to make better business decisions

Geoff Clemmons envisions a day when imaging business leaders, gathered around a conference table, can call up critical financial, operational and clinical data immediately and use it in the moment to make an important business decision.

It may be a reality that is not far away.

Research has shown that evidence based practice (EBP) improves the quality and safety of healthcare, enhances health outcomes, decreases geographic variation in care, and reduces costs.

Building on the demonstrated clinical success of EBP, healthcare organizations are now looking to adopt a similar approach on the operational side of the business. Evidencebased management (EBM) is emerging as a model to help healthcare leaders use evidence (in this case data) to improve management of the healthcare enterprise and to make better business decisions.

“In the US today, healthcare costs are now in the trillions of dollars,” explains Clemmons, who is the Marketing Manager at Vital Images. “To rein in costs, the industry is now moving away from a fee-for-service model, where doctors and hospitals are paid based on the number of healthcare services delivered to a value-based approach, where care is centered around the patient.  In this latter model, payers are focused on the entire envelope of care versus the individual services.”

 

To stay in line with a value-based approach, health care providers such as imaging services are recognizing the need to hold the line on costs and are actively seeking to realize greater business efficiencies. That means looking to data available across the enterprise to inform business decisions.

While a positive step forward in the long term, the practice of evidence-based management is a new concept for many imaging business leaders, who typically are clinicians first and business people second.

“The average leader of an imaging business is first a clinician and his or her passion is treating patients,” says Geoff. “Running a business today demands a new skill set for these leaders and Big Data analytics expertise that has not been required of them in the past. It’s absolutely a shift in the way people have traditionally approached their imaging business.”

A key factor in implementing evidence-based management is access to data. “Healthcare enterprises are gathering all kinds of data today, generated in systems that facilitate patient workflows, from the electronic medical record (EMR) through to the radiology information system (RIS), however that data is typically stored in proprietary systems. Therefore any reporting that is done is done with tools provided by the vendor and confined to that system. There’s been no ability to combine datasets; to look at the bigger picture that combined data might offer. An EMR reporting engine may give you high level information on turnaround times or exam volumes, but if you want to dig into the details and for instance get at data to substantiate a business decision, that is a more difficult task.”

Geoff uses the example of an imaging business that is looking to build a business case for a new CT scanner. “To justify a capital purchase of this size and scale you want to access a deeper level of data. For instance, calculating the utilization of the current CT scanner; or looking at average wait times. Information that can support a funding decision. That detail is a lot more challenging for the average business person to obtain.”

Currently, access to data stored in various proprietary systems is obtained through deep querying a process that requires a specialized IT skill set and time. The average turnaround on such an information query can be up to a week, and that does not take into account other competing priorities for IT specialists’ time. “If there’s a major system upgrade underway, your request can get deprioritized to the bottom of the pile,” notes Geoff.

There are answers available to this dilemma, Clemmons is happy to note. Vital Images’ new Vitrea Intelligence platform takes advantage of existing standards in healthcare and connects to an interface engine, which relays messages shared between clinical systems.

“We take advantage of the information flow between systems and can go all the way to the device level to gather data on the clinical side, and pull in financial information as well to provide a big picture that is easily accessed, easily interpreted and goes deeper than reporting on any individual system.”

“Our goal is to provide self-service access to critical business data when it is most needed,” says Geoff Clemmons. “I can see a day where you’ll be sitting around a conference table in a leadership meeting and critical business information is called up in the moment to justify decisions. And if that data isn’t available, well it’ll be a simple task to build out a view of the data right there in real time.”