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Driving Strategy with Data Analytics

May 21, 2019 09:15AM ● By MED Magazine

By Chirag Shukla

Strategic planning is a core function in most growing healthcare companies. Data analysis drives strategic change by winning debates. Process, people, and technology are core elements of the data analytics journey.

The book The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Sean Covey addresses goal achievement through knowing the goal, knowing how to achieve it, keeping a scorecard, and holding everyone accountable. Process drives the first and last discipline. Data drives the middle two. Data can tell what happened after the fact (lag measure) or it can tell what is happening (lead measure). We can influence the end result by watching the lead measure. A compelling scorecard showing lead measures and key performance indicators (KPI) makes accountability a breeze.

The data analytics journey begins with identifying the goal. The goal must be crystal clear. The process mapping exercise must uncover and document areas where data collection is required. For example: if the intent is to serve 20% more patients in the next 365 days, process mapping will list areas, people, and systems that provide data, such as front desk to measure patient volume, marketing that identifies ways to reach patients, systems that calculate wait times, etc. SharePoint, Confluence, and even Word documents on a shared network are good tools for documentation.

Building a robust process takes time. Many companies struggle when they begin data analysis after process mapping/documentation is complete. Beginning data analysis in parallel with process mapping saves valuable time and generates engagement. Task management tools like Jira, Pivotal Tracker, and Asana can help with process mapping and task management.

People are the most important element in the journey since they drive process and technology. Build an analytics team of tech-savvy, engaged individuals who understand the business. Create a communication channel between the analytics team and stakeholders, with a weekly meeting to report progress. Organizations gain significant value and accountability with such engagement. Address healthcare regulations by providing the analytics team training on data governance, handling sensitive data, and building actionable scorecards with KPIs.

Technology is a gamechanger in healthcare. Automate processes to save time. Build easy-to-read scorecards with high-quality data that people believe in. Visualization tools such as Qlik Sense, SiSense, and even Excel allow analytics teams to build compelling dashboards within minutes. These quick-hit dashboards aid in quality control by exposing bad data, missing data, and busting myths/gut feelings. Logical questions follow – can we fix data visualization? The answer should be No. Fix the source system. Consistent improvements in data builds confidence.

Demand for scorecards quickly increases. Every group desires their own personalized view. Building more dashboards without a plan leads to multiple definitions of truth. If process mapping defined count of walk-in patients as patients the hospital served, that definition should not be changed to count of people who walked in the door. Preserve definition and source of truth. Make decisions based on one or two well-curated, high-quality scorecards so that everyone is speaking the same language and looking at the same data. Govern the data extraction, transformation, and visualization in an auditable manner. Summarize data to protect personal information. Use version control documentation, scorecards, and automation to meet healthcare audits.

Finally – accountability in everyone’s job. Set an example of accountability from top management. Set expectations up and down the chain of command. A culture of accountability is established when expectations are clear, and results are tracked. Create a feedback cycle to reinforce expectations. Make accountability a habit. A 5-minute weekly standup with key team members to review lead and lag measures can bring significant accountability towards meeting strategic objectives.

While the journey of data analytics will take turns as business requirements change, the process, people, and technology investments in healthcare will provide dividends for years to come.

Chirag Shukla has worked in the technology field professionally since the 1990s in a variety of businesses, including petroleum, food service, manufacturing, healthcare, and public safety. He is the Chief Information and Technology Officer at RAS.,