How culture can make or break the value of your data

As information technology and digital medical record systems continue to evolve, healthcare providers have gained access to an ever-increasing volume of data. But what many hospital and health system leaders have realized is that intelligence — not data alone — is required for meaningful action.

"It's important to distinguish the difference between the questions, 'Do you have data?' and, 'Do you have the information you need to make decisions and improve the operations of the organization?'" Jason Williams, vice president of Change Healthcare, said at Becker's Hospital Review's 8th Annual Meeting in Chicago. "The important thing is not the data, it's about the objectives we're trying to accomplish."

Data analytics systems are employed to support a variety of initiatives, such as improving operational efficiency, care redesign, disease management and population health, among many others. But organizational culture can be a strong impediment to getting the most out of analytics systems, according to Mr. Williams.

"There are various obstacles to widespread analytics adoption related to organizational culture," he said. "The culture may not be one that encourages new information, or there is lack of understanding of how the analytics can improve the business. Maybe there's a lack of management bandwidth due to competing priorities, or a lack of executive sponsorship. Maybe the organization just doesn't know where to start."

Getting people the data they need

The first step to overcoming cultural issues that impair the successful utilization of data analytics is understanding how different stakeholders within the health system use and reap value from it.

"Data means different things to different people in the organization," said Mr. Williams. "C-level executives need data to help them decide how to invest. That's different from the managers beneath them, who are more interested in data related to monthly results and weekly workflows. Those at the bottom of the organizational chart have different priorities, too."

The most important question to consider, according to Mr. Williams, is do people have the data they need to do their jobs? If the answer is no, people will understandably be resistant to embracing analytics systems that interrupt their workflow and consume valuable time.

Using analytics to encourage collaboration

Although employees of different levels may have varying uses for data, it's integral that analytics is employed "in a way that enables collaboration," said Mr. Williams. "The ability to sweep together data becomes the linchpin … data is the great equalizer."

To break down silos and encourage collaboration between disparate teams and departments, it is important for everyone to understand the implications of the insights and how people with different goals can use the data to work together.

"It's great to try to jump into the data and make things happen, but you must be aligned with one another and create shared goals," said Mr. Williams.

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