How health systems can arm physicians with performance data and insights

Today's healthcare providers are inundated with data from multiple sources and care locations, but often lack methods of transforming it into actionable insights. That leaves providers with numerous blind spots that hinder their ability to optimize revenues and measure performance.

Many organizations have implemented a single EHR platform across their enterprise to improve data interoperability. Hundreds of millions of dollars later, however, gaps persist in most organizations' use of analytics to align physician and hospital performance goals, improve care quality and make organizationwide processes more efficient.

During a Sept. 18 webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Ingenious Med, Gerald Groff, MD, chief medical insurance and innovation officer at Cooperstown, N.Y.-based Bassett Healthcare Network, and Steven Liu, MD, founder and CMO of Ingenious Med, discussed how analytics can identify those gaps, support physicians and, ultimately, improve care.

"Physicians are one of the most powerful entities in healthcare. They're the folks that are actually executing on the ground, so their success or failures become the practice's success or failures," Dr. Liu explained. "Some of the biggest returns on investment will come from giving those physicians the tools and the insights they need to be better."

Detecting blind spots

The first step in optimizing an organization's analytics system is to locate any gaps in the existing framework. Bassett, for example, implemented a proprietary data warehouse outfitted with thousands of reports and searchable dashboards, but still found areas for improvement. "We find ourselves often with limited actionable data in our dealings with insurers," Dr. Groff said.

A common issue with insights gathered by hospitals and health systems is a lack of depth. "Folks typically focus on systemwide analytics and insights, but there's actually another level that's maybe more important: at the actual physician and practice level, and even down to individual physician performance," Dr. Liu said.

Another challenge arises from the ongoing trend of building inter-system partnerships, he added, which make health systems "bigger than the available technology" and create data silos between each newly established branch or department.

Arming physicians with trustworthy, meaningful data

The most reliable way to overcome those data gaps is to bridge them with deeper and more comprehensive analytics, then share the findings with physicians, who are best positioned to make actual changes. To have a real impact, however, the data must be not only timely and far-reaching, but also trustworthy and meaningful.

"It has to be accurate or you lose all credibility. Physicians have to trust the information and it has to be meaningful … it can't be an obscure measure that really doesn't connect with them," Dr. Groff explained.

Total accuracy is always the goal, but is often difficult to achieve. Because of this, transparency is another key component of a successful analytics system. Clear channels for feedback help identify and rectify flaws in the system more quickly; the focus on open and honest communication, in turn, builds further trust.

Dr. Liu noted that, though efforts to ensure accuracy and meaning can be costly, the potential results make them well worth any price. "It takes time and effort and resources to make it good, but if you can do that and you can show those insights to physicians in real time, it will certainly change behavior and improve the chances of success," he said.

For example, Ingenious Med's use of charge data eliminates credibility gaps because physicians themselves enter the data. Further, it allows health systems to deliver the data in real time, enabling physicians to benchmark their performance against their peers on a timely basis.

Engaging physicians as partners

Beyond ensuring insights and other data reports are trustworthy and relevant to physicians — and are "put in front of their eyeballs" regularly, per Dr. Liu — aligned goals and incentives are crucial to getting providers on board with analytics efforts.

In the first year Bassett offered its providers regular data-driven progress reports, they "either ignored the reports or burned them," Dr. Groff joked. "From then on, we've been working carefully on real incentives, whether those are compensation incentives or time incentives or other things that providers find important and valuable. There has to be some kind of link to something that improves their world." 

Simply put, "If you tie organizational strategies to physicians' wallet share, you'll get changes in behavior," Dr. Liu said. "Anything you can do to ensure they're also winners is helpful."

That begins, Dr. Liu and Dr. Groff agreed, with establishing a dialogue between the analytics team and physicians. That way, the teams creating the reports know which insights have the most impact on physicians' work — resulting in less wasted time on both sides. Focusing only on the most relevant insights will then guide the creation of appropriate incentives to improve those selected metrics.

One such approach is based on complementing EHR functionalities, as Ingenious Med does. This enables health systems to quickly drill down to the individual physician level or across the enterprise to facility-based analysis of productivity and performance. That data allows them to pay physicians efficiently, better manage incentive and compensation plans and facilitate group contracting.

"Without incentives, you'll never get physicians' attention — they're too busy. There's too much work to be done," Dr. Groff said, while Dr. Liu added, "If they're incented properly, they will work with you to create a metric that they feel they can execute on and change, and that you're happy with, too."

View the full webinar here.

More articles on data analytics:
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Prudential acquires analytics-driven insurtech startup Assurance for $2.4B

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