Business Analytics for Healthcare Organizations: Maximize Information While Minimizing Efforts

Shannon Wheeler, manager of Pathview Dashboard Clinical Benchmarking and Analytics and Item Enhancement Service, gave a presentation titled “Business Analytics: How to Maximize Your Information and Minimize Your Efforts.” In the presentation, he addressed many key issues on benchmarking and applying those numbers to real healthcare situations.



“One of the biggest mistakes organizations make when first benchmarking is that they limit their benchmarking activity to their own industry,” he said. “Benchmarking within your own industry is essential, but you already have a good idea about how your industry performs. It’s imperative that you reach outside and above your own industry to other industries that perform a similar process but may have to perform that process extremely well in order to succeed.”


Mr. Wheeler gave a few examples, such as hotels looking to shorten wait times for rooms, especially for repeat customers. The hotel industry benchmarked against hospital emergency rooms, resulting in shorter wait times and automation for frequent customers. However, benchmarks can be flawed as they show the average of industry competitors who may have substandard goals or significant flaws in their processes. There is also the danger of complacency for industry leaders.


“Many organizations tend to relax after excelling beyond their competitor’s standards, allowing complacency to develop,” Mr. Wheeler said. “The realization of becoming an industry leader leads to arrogance.”


Benchmarking is only a means to the end, and is worthless without a plan for what needs to happen in order to improve, said Mr. Wheeler. Figure out who is most compatible for you to benchmark with and keep the limitations of benchmarks in mind.


“The process of benchmarking can be just as important as the results, especially if you plan to engage several people to help implement improvements,” Mr. Wheeler said. “By including executives and other key stakeholders throughout the benchmarking process, you minimize resistance to change and win their support.”


For collaborative benchmarking, ASCs should:


●    Select the benchmarking topic;
●    Establish the benchmarking collaborative;
●    Project to stakeholders identified.


For internal benchmarking, freestanding ASCs must:


●    Compare similar processes, operations and functions;
●    Benchmark within units, departments, specialties and disciplines.


For competitive benchmarking, ASCs should:


●    Compare processes, products and services against best competitors;
●    Make sure you know your goals for major improvements;
●    Position your services in the marketplace;
●    Define your competitive advantage.


For functional benchmarking, ASC leaders must think outside the box. Benchmark against other similar industries. Generic benchmarking compares performance with that of other organizations across the industry. It focuses on drastic process improvement regardless of the industry you are comparing against. “It’s important to understand the various types of benchmarking to effectively plan your projects,” Mr. Wheeler said. “However, it’s important to understand that benchmarking isn’t a once-per-year process.”


Consistent benchmarking allows for greater process improvement within the organization. Mr. Wheeler discussed dashboard tools for benchmarking engagements. Charts and graphs can be generated based on data input and shared with others based on specifications. With the PathView system, managers can send out information to physicians in real time or scheduled in advance. The data and charts are customized, and users can drill down to the raw data.


Mr. Wheeler also addressed key performance indicators and their role in process improvement.


“Identifying key performance indicators in healthcare is not a trivial path and when it relates to improving healthcare quality and operational performance, few tasks are as important,” he said. The KPI ties into the goals of the organization and reflects critical success factors. It evaluates performance over a designated time period. Involve key stakeholders in the identification of KPIs and make sure it’s understood by all parties involved.


If you partner with an outside organization, make sure their operations and costs align with your organization’s goals. “KPIs measure performance by showing trends to demonstrate that improvements that are being made over time and are used to determine whether the practice, hospital or possibly ACO is meeting predefined targets,” he said. “Appropriate benchmarks are necessary to determine how a healthcare organization's performance compares against it’s own desired goals and objectives and against other, perhaps competing organizations.”


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