Data – The Star of the Show

One-week post #HIMSS19, blogs and articles are using phrases like “no one unifying theme”, “something for everyone”, “the invasion of non-healthcare high tech” and “the end of the EHR movement” to summarize the global conference key take-aways. Even though the exhibition showcased interoperability, artificial intelligence, telehealth, security, the internet of things, precision medicine and more, the focus was not on these technologies. In fact, a more subtle underlying reality was clear in both the education sessions and vendor booths. Data is the star of the show!

Data in the Spotlight at HIMSS

Data collection, data integrity and quality, data access, data for benchmarking and comparative analysis, data protection and safety, data as part of care management platforms, data analysis and prediction, data visualization and ultimately, the transformation of data into information each had the spotlight. Data and analytics vendors were certainly a major focus of the show. These vendors were not outdone by solutions which offered data a by-product of a much more comprehensive offering such as Enterprise Resource Planning or data embedded within cloud-based services designed to solve specific business and clinical problems such as readmissions. Moreover, CMS took center stage in multiple forums to discuss the Interoperability and Patient Access Proposed Rule. With a goal to touch all aspects of healthcare, from patients to providers to payers to researchers, “CMS hopes to break down existing barriers to important data exchange needed to empower patients by given them access to their health data,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma indicated. HIMSS even gotten directly into the act. Recognizing the importance of data and information, they have changed their vision statement from “better health through IT” to “better health through information and technology.”

Siloed Organizations and Turf Battles

Yet, even with all of this attention and applause its hard to reconcile the maturity of data initiatives in many health and healthcare organizations today and the challenges faced by many. For data to be valuable, data must be converted into information, information into insights, insights into decisions, and decisions into action. Unfortunately, many health and healthcare still manage their data assets within siloed organization structures. Turf battles are common. Data-related issues for decision makers often include:

  • Confusion over who “owns” data and analytics
  • Questions regarding centralization versus decentralization of analytics resources and tools
  • Limited trust in the data and reports created by other parts of the organization often resulting in considerable rework
  • Inconsistent data definitions, duplicate data sources and systems, and costly resource requirements
  • Analysts who don’t understand the problem to be solved when data requests are “thrown over the fence”
  • Proliferation of spreadsheets, manual manipulation of score cards, and limited automation
  • Delays and slow turnaround of data requests
  • Data repositories that create many but rarely used reports
  • An inability to fully appreciate much less realize the benefits of big data, and predictive and prescriptive analysis

According to thought leaders at SAP, “less than 1% of the world’s data in business is analyzed and turned into benefits”.

The Enterprise Analytics Management System

Creation of an organizational approach to standardizing management of data, or Enterprise Analytics Management System (EAMS), results in a defined, documented and deliberately managed set of priorities, polices, procedures and processes. The EAMS should address the collection, definition, analysis, interpretation, translation and presentation of data to a wide variety of audiences.

Objectives for the EAMS are to:

  • Transition from a data and analytics departmental/siloed approach to a clear, consistent enterprise approach to managing data assets
  • Ensure key stakeholders understand enterprise analytics assets and have a consistent methodology for working together across the organization
  • Clearly define an enterprise analytics organization and operating model
  • Build a culture of collaboration and accountability to support data and analytics
  • Design and implement an oversight process or governance process
  • Develop an Enterprise Analytics Strategy and Pragmatic Road Map for the next few years

For data to truly be the star of the show, we must improve our ability to govern and manage this critically important asset.

 

Disruptive Innovation v. EHR Optimization: Is the Tail Wagging the Dog?

Disruptive innovation in healthcare will depend on new combinations of data, technology and business models to create new interactions with health and healthcare consumers. In a NEJM Catalyst Marketplace Survey, healthcare executives, clinical leaders, and clinicians ranked the healthcare sectors in most need of disruption. The top three sectors were hospitals and health systems (65%), healthcare IT vendors (47%), and primary care (36%). Interestingly, a dichotomy emerged when respondents considered whether buyers were willing to pay for solutions to result in disruptive innovation. Most notably, health care IT shot to the top of the list, named by half of respondents. Hospitals and health systems were second (46%).

Importance of EHR Optimization

Yet according to a recent Health Data Management survey, 72% of respondents from healthcare organizations indicate that achieving EHR optimization is either extremely important or very important for their organizations. Healthcare leaders vary in their definition of optimization. For some it consists of routine maintenance, for others it involves remediation of technical issues not addressed during implementation, and for others it includes the addition of new functionality. The performance-improvement minded define optimization as including standardization of workflows, improved use of data and application of best practices. There are three problems with this thinking:

  • At best optimization produces incremental performance improvement and change, resulting in a nominal return on investment and value,
  • Second, optimization is focused on the technology not the healthcare business or clinical problem to be solved – resulting in the proverbial technology tail wagging the dog, and finally
  • There is a perception that disruptive innovations must come from outside the industry, and if the data and technology leaders are “heads-down” focused on optimization, they may miss the chance to drive real change

Solving Narrow Business and Clinical Problems is the Key to Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive innovation requires one to solve the business and clinical problems of the industry. These problems are big, complex and often beyond the control of individual practitioners and health systems. For the best lesson on addressing complex problems, we can look within our own industry. Cancer, once a death sentence, was the focus of doctors and researchers for years. The common thinking was that a single cure for all forms of the disease would be the answer. Physician Sid Mukherjee, author of book The Emperor of All Maladies, describes the first breakthrough.  Sidney Farber, now known as the Father of Modern Chemotherapy, decided to focus exclusively on treating leukemia. By narrowing his focus Farber was able to make remarkable progress against this single condition. As a result, his work led to new protocols and treatments for other cancers. According to Mukherjee, “focusing microscopically on a single disease, one could extrapolate into the entire universe of diseases.” The healthcare industry can learn and apply this lesson – to solve solve large complex problems, first attack smaller micro-problems.

Move to the Next Level of Value & Return on Investment

There exists a full spectrum of high-impact value that can be realized and created when investments in HIT and digital tools are applied to solving healthcare business and clinical problems. The Healthcare Value Pathway illustrates the next levels of value and return on investment.

Key steps include:

  • First of all, start with a narrow focus on a specific problem such as the historic under-investment in primary care, the cost of a hospital stay, patients with multiple chronic conditions, the disparities in access or challenges in transitions of care
  • Next explore specific innovations such as:
    • Design new business and care delivery models
    • Develop new networks new networks of patients and providers
    • Create new approaches to sharing information
    • Reinvent work processes, decision making structures and roles/responsibilities
  • Analyze market, clinical, financial, claims, social determinant, etc. data to learn more about the problem to be solved
  • Finally, iterate micro-phases of designing and piloting the innovation

Oh, and what about technology? Technology is and will be pervasive in all that we do in health and healthcare. Consider as you design new innovations, potential high-impact or value-added technologies.  Rather than “wagging the technology tail”, move beyond optimization to focus value through disruptive innovation.

The Pivot: From Compliance to Strategy

HIMSS16 – billed as the largest and most important healthcare IT conference in the United States occurred last week in Las Vegas.  The message was loud and clear – something is different; the government mandate is over.  Strategy is the new, new.

For years the HIT world has encouraged alignment of enterprise strategy and the IT plan.  Alignment suggests two distinctly different things creating a linkage or connection.  Healthcare enterprise strategy decisions such as which markets do we enter, who do we acquire, which service lines do we emphasize, and what capital investments do we make are explored at executive and board levels.  Operations and financial decisions to support our hospitals and physician practices are made within organizational silos.  Sometimes IT is at the table, but more often than not information systems professionals are called in after the fact to “implement” selected systems and tools.  Sophisticated IT organizations have created IT Strategic Plans, IT Governance structures, IT Road Maps, and IT Champions/Customer Relationship Managers.  Our challenge – separate, sometimes aligned but rarely one.

Uncertainty is the new normal.  Strategies that take years to implement, vendor partners who are all vying for the same space and the challenges of mergers and acquisitions are driving us from 1.0 healthcare – where business as usual no longer is sustainable.  We are at a cross roads.  Those of us in transition must “pivot” our viewpoint from 1.0 volume based thinking to 2.0 and beyond.

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We need fresh, new perspectives regarding the relationship between enterprise direction and the digital strategies required for the future.  New harmonized strategies will:

  • Vary by geographic market and depend on community progress toward clinical integration
  • Necessitate partnerships, alliances and consolidations – no one can fund the investment alone and no one vendor will have all the solutions
  • Require governance models that address horizontal, vertical and virtual decisions making and integrate change across multiple systems of care
  • Move from an applications focus which emphasizes feature, functionality to a platform focus, producing highly configurable systems which will drive standardization and enable business strategies simultaneously
  • Redesign our organization structures, leadership competencies and operating models in IT, Informatics, Analytics and Quality
  • Acknowledge our work to create systems of documentation was foundational but not the end goal; systems of insight and behavioral change are the next stages in the evolution
  • Result in convergence of people, process, information, change and technology to rationalize costs, manage risks, realize value and activate patients to become involved in their care

 

Beware Best Practices

Almost twenty years ago, in 1996 after publishing “America’s Health in Transition: Protecting and Improving Quality”  the Institute of Medicine launched a long term, ongoing concerted effort on assessing and improving the quality of healthcare.  “To Err is Human” further galvanized the national movement to improve the quality and safety of our healthcare practices by putting the spotlight on how tens of thousands of Americans die each year from medical errors.   The “Quality Chasm” report underscored the importance of a dramatically improved information technology infrastructure to support a 21st century health system.  Building blocks for such a system include an electronic health record system and national standards.  Progress has been made, the federal government has paid out over 30 billion dollars in Meaningful Use incentives as of March 2015 and impressive examples of quality improvements are frequently quoted in the literature.  Yet, most would agree that the results to-date have been underwhelming.

It is important to recognize that most implemented EHRs with a “check-the-box” mentality order to comply with Meaningful Use.   When Meaningful Use was initially launched, our team suggested that we were “enabling the dinosaur”.  And while not prehistoric, the design of today’s healthcare system does have ancient roots.    The Romans constructed buildings called valetudinaria for the care of sick slaves, gladiators, and soldiers around 100 B.C. (Heinz E Müller-Dietz, Historia Hospitalium, 1975).  In the U.S., the number of hospitals reached 4400 in 1910, when they provided 420,000 beds (U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States 1976).  So clinical information technology was about automating existing clinical processes in hospitals (Stead 2005) rather than transforming clinical decision-making and work processes across the care continuum” (Brown, Patrick, Pasupathy 2013). 

 Separately, quality and performance improvement departments focused on deploying best practice – a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark. (Wikipedia).  While best practices have their place, it is important to recognize the risks associated with emulating others when the practice depends on an antiquated business model such as hospital care. JPGshutterstock_159756653

As health systems transition from 1.0 – Bricks and Mortar Healthcare to 3.0 – Digital, Value Driven Connected Health and Healthcare, we encourage a focus on emerging practice.  A concept born in “systems thinking”, emerging practice assumes:

  • We cannot copy other organizations, use it in our organization and expect it to work given the number of variables at play
  • Intentional design of care management and business models will result in disruption of today’s best practices
  • Collaboration and integration of clinical teams, business leaders, information technology experts and data analyst will create new value
  • Big bang, long term projects are giving way to agile, experimentation where we learn to work in new and different ways
  • Rather than using our intuition or past experience to drive improvement, data driven innovation can often have more remarkable results and new practice will emerge

So, the next time someone mentions “best practice” challenge their thinking.

 

Business Plans for Affiliated Provider Solutions & Services

Despite the healthcare consolidation trend and the health system strategy to build a “System of Care” across the healthcare continuum, affiliated providers continue to be an essential element of the care delivery process in most communities. Even with strong referral management processes and systems, physicians will still refer patients to providers outside the “owned assets” of the IDN, patients will self-refer and primary care providers and specialists will create orders to be delivered outside the integrated delivery network. While most health systems are developing strategies to actively manage referral practices, even the most horizontally integrated health systems will be on a constant search for high-quality and low-cost affiliated providers to compete effectively in a value-based environment.

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Affiliated provider programs at many health systems have struggled, even with the relaxation of the Stark Laws through the Safe Harbor provisions. Simply offering a donated EHR often fails to address the expanding scope of provider organizations (e.g., practices, skill nursing facilities, home health agencies, etc.) and often ignores the evolving demands of clinical integration and accountable care models which place greater emphasis on services and technologies that complement the EHR. Providers need effective application support services, enabling technologies such as telehealth, and a health system who is continually evaluating new innovations such as wearable technologies, mHealth, analytics, etc. that work with a myriad of EHR environments including donated EHR, web/portal/HIE, call centers, cloud based scheduling, fax and direct.

Developing a Business Plan that includes services and solutions for your affiliated providers doesn’t need to be overwhelming.

Suggested steps include:

  • Step 1 – Recognize that your provider solution and service offering may start with physician practices, but will grow to include other provider settings. This may take time. While most markets share several similarities, there are unique factors that will determine when the business conditions of your market will support expanding the business plan and associated strategies to include additional care settings
  • Step 2 – Develop a standardized services and solutions catalog that your customers need, is easily understood and can be delivered with a high degree of reliability. The services and solutions may be tiered or packaged to appeal to specific groups and level of integration, and specific variations may be designed-in to allow “localization” of based on unique requirements of specific entities, markets and specialties. Yet, the important point is that it is standardized, which by definition will produce a modest set of services and solutions. When a health system allows customizations, the services and solutions catalog expands and operating costs soar
  • Step 3 – Resign yourself to the fact that your organization can’t do it all. Sourcing selected services and solutions from the catalog to value added resellers, Internet Service Providers, hardware providers, etc. will be important. The goal is to create a variable model that reduces risk, creates economies, and ultimately provides exceptional service
  • Step 4 – Determine the business (i.e., operational, organizational, & financial) model that is right for your organization. There are a number of different models that can be used. What is right for your organization will depend on its operating strategy. Key questions include:
    o Do you provide services through existing IT departments or management services organizations?
    o How are the services provided to employed providers and owned entities?
    o Is a separate services organization necessary to provide the services? Do you run the business as a profit center or cost center?
    o Are multiple entities using the services and how do you share oversight and management?
  • Step 5 – Create the go-to-market plan. Communicating the value proposition and earning the trust of customers can be the most challenging component of any business plan. This is particularly true if previous attempt to align with affiliated providers have not been successful at your organization or neighboring health systems. Pre-emptively addressing concerns, demonstrating how services have been tailored to better meet needs, illustrating the executive support, and painting a long-term vision are all required for the program to thrive.

Maestro Strategies uses our collective experience gained assisting health systems with their provider programs as well as our work launching new companies, affiliations and agencies to help explore key strategies and associated operating implications to create a vision, build a business plan and design a road map for affiliated provider services and solutions. Please contact us a insights@maestrostrategies.com to discuss the unique needs of your provider community and how the steps above could be tailored to create a Business Plan for Affiliated Provider Services and Solutions to benefit your health system.

 

Two Canoes … and Four ‘I’s

Change: No two healthcare provider organizations experience it the same way. Some actively pursue development of clinically integrated networks and accountable care organizations, others double down on traditional healthcare practices. Many are paralyzed, not knowing what to do or how. The transition from volume to value has been described as “stepping from one canoe to another midstream.” Although the analogy clearly depicts the challenge, it doesn’t instruct healthcare executives how to successfully execute the step without falling in. The American Hospital Association has tackled this task by publishing a series of white papers describing the journey as moving from “first curve” to “second curve” healthcare. The most recent, Your Hospital’s Path to the Second Curve: Integration and Transformation (January 2014), provides 10 strategies, necessary organizational capabilities and potential paths for hospitals. It depicts a number of case study organizations that are actively “living in the gap” between volume and value, and describes various integrated delivery programs to improve care coordination, physician alignment, performance measures and patient outcomes. While most volume to value publications rarely address healthcare information technology, except to say “implement EHRs” as part of clinically integrated care, this white paper takes it a step further. It encourages health systems to “conduct information exchange” and use information systems to:

  • Implement electronic health records
  • Enhance health information system interoperability across sites of care
  • Use existing data to facilitate analysis and reporting for process improvement and behavioral change
  • Use predictive modeling for population health management
  • Use data analytics for care management and operational management

Yet, many health systems and providers are challenged to successfully execute these recommendations. In fact, we find the operational, clinical, financial, technological and legal unintended consequences of HITECH often undermine the potential benefit. Many clinicians still ask “why” and have not incorporated needed workflow changes.   Healthcare executives question what value they have received for their multimillion-dollar investments. To a certain degree, the focus on Meaningful Use and its incentives has been the “technology tail wagging the dog.” Rather than leading with the business strategy we wanted these systems to enable, the healthcare industry focused on the technology. So while healthcare strategists are actively living in the gap and planning the next step on the journey to value, clinicians and other users of information technology are struggling with the day-to-day impact these systems have left on care delivery. Rather than rushing to select health information exchange applications, layer on business intelligence systems and purchase care management systems, we suggest an alternative approach focused on value creation and realization. It starts with one letter – “i.” My friend Praveen Chopra, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Thomas Jefferson University and the TJU Hospital System, started his career outside healthcare in retail and supply chain. “Rather than focusing on technology, the healthcare industry should focus on three “i’s” – information, integration and innovation,” Chopra says. At Maestro Strategies, we also want to focus on one more “i” – insight. We believe that a focus on these four words will help drive more value as we take the next steps on our joint transformation journey. Our “i-men” characters help us tell the “why,” and with this new website, we plan to bring our clients and friends specific strategies and tactics to help execute on the change and close the gap between the two canoes.