How data analytics empower clinical, operational staff decision-making: 5 insights 

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for data analytics adoption systemwide at hospitals and health systems in the U.S.

The ability to track real-time information on available hospital beds, personal protective equipment supply and intensive care unit capacity can help health system leaders make more informed decisions. During the pandemic, leaders can use this information to project potential patient surges and prepare for issues such as PPE and bed shortages.

During a July 23 webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Tableau Healthcare, industry experts discussed the importance and power data gives hospitals and health system leaders as they navigate teams through the coronavirus pandemic and make critical decisions related to patient care, financial operations and supply chain management.

The speakers were:

  • Barry Chaiken, MD, clinical lead at Tableau Healthcare
  • Christopher Hutchins, vice president and chief data and analytics officer of Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

Five takeaways:

1. Simplicity is key to data dashboards. When designing a data dashboard, the most important question to consider is if the dashboard is self explanatory, according to Mr. Hutchins. Don't make the dashboard over complicated by over designing it. For example, if a color is used to represent particular information, try using red to indicate an alert. The user should see easily digestible, yet meaningful data that allows them to make a decision.

2. Self-service analytics streamline data insights. The pandemic underscored the need for healthcare organizations to create single-source data systems. Building data marts, or specific subsets of data relevant to particular experts, helps validate the data the organization curates. The process supports self-service, so physicians don't have to search through the entire EMR backend when doing analytics on a diabetic patient population, Mr. Hutchins said.

"It's much easier to curate data for self-service; for example, we built data more specifically to support surgical analytics," he said. "It's not that it's not valuable to see other aspects of the ambulatory activities or the patient's medical history, the process is just designed to ensure we're targeting the disciplines that really have a heavier focus in specific areas [relevant to the physician's needs]."

3. The right dashboard will help inform decision making at the point of care. Using self-service analytics combined with the proper data dashboard allows not only clinicians to make more informed decisions at the point of care but also helps inform decision making at the operational level, whether it's the CEO, financial division or even OR suite cleaners, Dr. Chaiken said, adding that "the real value of analytics is its ability to inform people in ways to make better decisions based upon data they're collecting anyways or often times in transactional systems to deliver better outcomes."

4. Ensure inner analytics environments match patient records. From the clinical data perspective, Northwell pulls all information from the EMR, so if the data is inputted incorrectly in the EMR, then it will be wrong in it all other datasets. "If it's wrong in any one of our data sources, it's wrong in all of those places because it's coming from one source only, so if you correct something at the source, it's corrected everywhere," Mr. Hutchins said.

5. Analytics help support the entire care team. The pandemic has expanded the breadth of available medical information; so much so that there is no way for clinicians to keep up, said Dr. Chaiken. Having access to data analytics allows clinicians to do their jobs better because they can be more focused on their patients and use the data insights to better understand their needs.

"Data analytics allow us to not have to remember things that a computer can do well; the IT team can focus our minds on the data points that are important and impart to us the best medical knowledge based upon the analytics," Dr. Chaiken said. "That's a great service to us. It's the idea of a team. Physicians treat patients, but nurses and therapists also treat patients, and the IT department and financial staff and people who admit patients and fill out the forms in a sense all treat patients, too. The only way a hospital, clinic or physician's office can function is as a team."

Click here to listen to the full webinar.

More articles on data analytics:
New York to recognize third gender in COVID-19, health data reporting 
'What the heck is this?': Pennsylvania lawmaker questions data when COVID-19 hospitalizations drop 30% after switching to HHS system
San Antonio removes 619 COVID-19 cases from dashboard, many due to duplication: 4 details

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