17 Oct 2017

Unlocking & Understanding Data – Hurdles Facing Healthcare Organizations Seeking to Embrace Evidence-Based Thinking

In the next 16 years, the worldwide population of individuals 65 years and older will increase more than 60 percent from 617 million to more than 1 billion.* The increasing pressures our aging population will put on the healthcare industry will challenge our delivery of quality, cost efficient care like never before. Healthcare organizations need to eliminate waste, streamline processes, and reduce errors all while improving patient outcomes.

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In the quest for new efficiencies, metrics and data-driven evidence-based thinking becomes all important. Healthcare organizations are now embracing quality models such as Six Sigma, which rely upon metrics to benchmark the current state and measure ongoing performance improvements. The Baldridge Performance Excellence Program’s Baldridge Excellence Framework for 2017-2018 also puts increased emphasis on the measurement of components of the organization as a whole.

Such evidence-based thinking presents new cultural challenges for healthcare enterprises.

“The challenge for the majority of healthcare institutions is that leaders in this industry are typically caregivers first, business people second,” explains Geoff Clemmons, Product Marketing Manager. “Reliance on data for decision-making does not come naturally. Organizations need to culturally transition to a mindset where they allow data to drive priorities and change initiatives.

“The transition to evidence-based thinking also faces additional barriers for healthcare, such as lack of data science expertise within the organization,” explains Clemmons.

According to HR leader Robert Half, technology roles (such as data science) within healthcare are expected to be among the fastest-growing employee populations groups through 2024. Other barriers to evidence-based decision making include the siloed nature of data within the healthcare enterprise and the lack of access to real-time data, coupled with limited tools to allow business leaders to interpret and analyze data on the fly.

“It is the classic situation of you can’t manage what you can’t see,” says Clemmons. “Quality improvement programs that are all about posters and quality reminders, and that lack the data to ensure persistent, ongoing performance improvement are subject to backslide.”