How market data can level up service line strategy: Insights from Syntellis

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, when healthcare organizations created service line strategies, they typically only revisited them on occasion to make incremental adjustments.

However, service line and strategic financial planning has now become much more dynamic and data driven. Many variables must be considered, ranging from the competitive landscape to consumer expectations, payment reform, the organization's current financial position, ability to execute on strategies and more.

During a Becker's Hospital Review webinar sponsored by Syntellis Performance Solutions, Megan Reeves, vice president, strategic partnerships and growth at Syntellis, moderated a discussion with three colleagues about best practices for creating new service line strategies and integrating data elements into them:

  • Michael Faulkenberry, director, professional services
  • Michael Sengbusch, senior vice president, product management
  • Jay Spence, vice president, strategic solutions

Five key takeaways were:

  1. The pace of decision-making is changing. Today, hospitals and health systems must make smart decisions much more quickly. "The margin for error is smaller than ever before and that's directly related to margin pressures. Healthcare organizations are trying to grow revenue in any way they can. There's a need for fast, demonstrable improvements. As a result, planning departments must connect with clinical, financial and operations teams in new ways," Mr. Faulkenberry said. 
  1. Data now plays a greater role in strategy and investment decisions. Planning teams must connect complex data inputs in meaningful ways and then communicate actionable insights simply to the organization. Aggregating internal and external data sources can be challenging. "The integration layer is very important, as is normalization of multiple data sources," Mr. Sengbusch said. "This allows teams to draw correlations and comparisons between disparate datasets. Other key considerations include data quality, accessibility and security."
  1. To formulate a coherent service line strategy, organizations must benchmark current performance and identify growth opportunities. To assess the current state, organizations must look at cost of care analytics, reimbursement analytics, volume and margin trends, clinical quality, physician variation and patient satisfaction. These datasets can reveal strengths and weaknesses. "Market analysis, reimbursement analysis and expense analysis can help create a consistent view of an opportunity," Mr. Faulkenberry said.
  1. Planning teams at leading healthcare organizations view data analytics as a strategic asset. To elevate data analytics to that level, teams must work across multiple stakeholders. This makes it easier to implement formalized data governance structures across the enterprise. "From a planning perspective, external and market data are often viewed as new complements to internal data," Mr. Faulkenberry said. "How teams normalize and mesh them together can be easier said than done. A commitment to continuous improvement is essential."
  1. A commitment to data quality is a best practice on the finance side. Financial plans are only as good as their underlying assumptions. As a result, many finance teams are taking the lead and investing in new solutions to advance the quality of information. "Organizations that are high performing in the area of service line planning also tend to be high performing around service line management. They look at it from financial and qualitative perspectives, curating data and presenting it in ways that are consumable and actionable for stakeholders," Mr. Spence said.

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