Analytics Open the Door to Clinical and Financial Benefits

Analytics can be defined as “the discovery, interpretation, and communication of meaningful patterns in data.” Simply put, if you developed a rash every time you ate strawberries, the data would indicate you are allergic to them. So, if you knew that, you would likely stop eating them.

Analytics can be defined as “the discovery, interpretation, and communication of meaningful patterns in data.” Simply put, if you developed a rash every time you ate strawberries, the data would indicate you are allergic to them. So, if you knew that, you would likely stop eating them.

Knowledge of that information, that data, is becoming increasingly important in healthcare where there are pressures to reduce costs and keep patients healthy.

“[Analytics are] important from the patient perspective, and providing patient-centric care,” explains Seema Gai, MBBS, MPH, CIO at New Orleans-based CrescentCare Health. “The things that matter to the patient or affect the patient so that they can have better health outcomes can be driven through analytics.”

Making Changes

CrescentCare, formerly known as the NO/AIDS Task Force, serves 6,000 patients in and around southeastern Louisiana. Its original charter of preventing the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and helping patients who had contracted it has expanded to serve the broader community. Services provided include medical care, nutrition and meal deliveries, preventative medicine, dentistry, and obstetrics and gynecology. Leveraging analytics is critical to the healthcare organization’s goals.

“We’ve developed standard ways to collect data,” Gai says. “We also have analytics that report on incomplete data, so that end users know that a certain element is missing. It’s a complete cycle.”

If staff at CrescentCare wants to identify the segments, or subpopulations for several different chronic conditions, they create definitions in the system that are meaningful both for a clinical provider and the administrative staff. Those definitions become common understanding across the clinics and the practices. Then they go about collecting that data and reporting it back to the end user, not only from the missing data standpoint, but also looking at ways to help move the performance needle further along.

“What we’re trying to do is facilitate that end user engagement, be it front staff, or the billing, or the back office,” Gai says.

For example, the front office previously might have received reports with incomplete data, such as demographics. But if complete information is captured, billing staff can significantly reduce the potential for denials.

But analytics also benefits clinic care teams.

“In one of our clinics we have what we call identifying high need patients,” Gai says. “So, for certain chronic conditions that we serve we’re saying okay, this is a high need patient who needs engagement and a care coordination structure, where a nurse care manager will engage the patient in the appropriate the care plan. So, we rolled this out to all the other clinics as well. It’s working well.”

Focus on Clarity

It’s easy to hear a term like “analytics” and immediately conjure up images of complicated mathematical formulas. If you can’t make sense of the data, what good is it? But CrescentCare has worked around that by structuring a quality council comprised of nurses and physicians as well as data managers.

“We have an annual quality plan,” Gai explains. “We present measures. The measures not only incorporate the different programs, but also what are the standard definitions for some of these measures. We also have discussions around what the panel size should be for the provider, and how do we attribute patients to the provider.”

Setting those definitions and criteria enable the building of dashboards so that available data can be used to make informed decisions. But building the dashboards doesn’t happen overnight.

“It’s several meetings going back and forth asking, is this the right way to structure the dashboard?” Gai says. “Do you think the user acceptance will be higher in viewing the dashboard the way it’s displayed, or do we have to change the visualization using different charts? What will be the best for end user adoption? Everything gets vetted in that committee, and then these reports are made available to the end users.”

Looking Forward

Gai says that employing analytics in healthcare requires not only a thoughtful approach, but also a strategy that keeps rules and regulations in mind.

“That’s the place that we’re working on in terms of patient attribution and trying to understand who the true patients that are attributed to us,” Gai says. “And trying to understand what that formula or methodology was for attribution.”

She’s cognizant of the changing mindset to value-based care, and with that change, recognizes the valuable role that analytics can play.

“It’s about keeping our eyes open to learn more about these changes that are coming, and thinking along those lines as we build our infrastructure, and the processes that are needed to collect the data.”