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Who Knew? The Important role of the C-Suite in Clinical Business Intelligence

Posted on by CATALYSIS

Are you sick and tired of all the talk about BIG DATA in healthcare? Me too.

But…that doesn’t mean that it’s not important. Just not now, not yet.  There is some serious ground work to be done before big data will be a big deal for the healthcare community. And…if we don’t do this right it will be BIG EXPENSE for LITTLE VALUE. Just another form of very expensive waste in an industry already struggling to contain costs and bring value to the patient.

Let’s come at this a different way.

Are you a member of your organization's C-Suite or Leadership Team?

Can you articulate your organization’s Clinical Business Intelligence (CBI) Strategy?

Let me be clear here, the question is not whether your organization has a CBI strategy, or if you have someone who is in charge of your CBI Strategy, or if you’ve invested in top of the line CBI analytics software, or whether you’ve hired a consultant to lead your CBI development. It’s whether you (and every other member of your leadership team) can articulate just what that strategy is.

You see, the most important component of a successful CBI strategy is executive leadership. After all, what good is top notch analytic reporting if you have no idea what business problems you’re trying to solve, who is leading the charge to answer those questions and what information they need to do so? It’s kind of like having a super duper Global Positioning System in your hand but absolutely no idea where you’re going. A very big (and very expensive) ‘so what’.

That tells us this is not a business problem looking for a technology solution. The bottom line is that you cannot meet your organizational need for actionable analytics by simply installing new software – no matter what the vendors say.

So again, I’ll ask the question: Can you articulate your organization’s Clinical Business Intelligence (CBI) Strategy?  This isn’t meant to be a trick question. Let me help you think it through. It starts with the mission and vision – why does your organization exist and what impact do you aspire to make on the community you serve?

You already use your mission and vision to give context to every decision made across the enterprise. Mission and vision drive enterprise strategy. What’s yours? Patient safety? Market Share? Value to the Patient? Revenue Maximization? Think hard. Be honest. What is your organization really trying to accomplish? What methods will be used? What key performance indicators tell you if you’re on or off course?

Here’s the deal: your enterprise strategy IS your CBI strategy. It’s also your IT strategy, operations strategy, human resources strategy and your finance strategy. These are all support functions whose sole purpose and only measure of value is to serve the enterprise in pursuit of its mission. Any of the work they do that does not directly support the enterprise strategy and achievement of Key Performance targets is a form of waste.

Admittedly, some amount of unavoidable waste is built into the system due to regulatory reporting requirements and equipment or technology upgrades so acknowledge and quantify that so you know what you’re dealing with. Then make sure that every other bit of work is focused on what the enterprise is trying to accomplish.

Big data is a byproduct of our clinical and business operations. We know how to capture it, store it, and protect it. We did it first on paper, now most is in electronic form. Management of big data is serious and expensive work for healthcare systems but we definitely know how to do it. Patients generate enormous amounts of personal health history as they navigate the health system from clinic, to hospital, to rehab, to pharmacy, to home health – they trust us to collect and protect it. Clinical operations and administrative functions within the system create even more data. Then, to top it off we make sure to keep redundant stores of data to assure full recovery if there would be a computer system crash. No, managing big stores of healthcare data is definitely not our issue.

Now, putting big data to work? That’s a wholly different matter – and one where we’ve got a lot to learn but one that offers tremendous promise. We just need to figure out how to get from where we are to where we want to go. Nothing to it.

Big data is inanimate. It sits in files on a server spinning somewhere out there. Until it’s transformed into information and shared with staff, and until staff is prepared to play catch ball with the information and transform it into knowledge and ultimately to take action there is absolutely no value to big data.

So if your organization is not yet prepared to work this way – don’t bother about big data. It’s just a distraction.

Focus on establishing an evidence based culture, one in which every employee sees themselves as a problem solver. Introduce problem solving methods that assist staff in seeing the real problem and understanding the root cause. Build an environment where scientific thinking and experimentation is encouraged. Hypothesize using if, then thinking, plan, do, study and then adjust. Again. And again.  The existence of an evidence based culture is the door way for big data to make a difference.

There’s a model for building skills, knowhow and capacity within your organization to deal with big data: Mindset, Skillset, Toolset. In this model sequence is very important.  Think about it as first Mindset, then Skillset, and finally Toolset.

Accomplished in the right sequence the result is a strong, sustainable and mission driven enterprise staffed with skilled and productive problem solvers who use evidence (data) every day to manage the work in support of the mission and vision of the organization. This is not additional work – this is the way they work.

Don’t get hung up on needing to know all the details to get started. Clinical business intelligence in healthcare is in the early innovation stage. Members of the Clinical Business Intelligence Network will tell you that there is no such thing as best practice in CBI yet but there are better practices emerging.  We’re making this up as we go along and learning from our shared experience. Knowing what you know, using the data you can have access to and your experience as your guide, set direction and get moving.  Pick something small: a model unit, a department, a certain service line.  Be prepared to study and adjust along the way. To throw away what’s not working and bring another idea into the mix. To learn from the experience and go at it again.  The important thing is to get started. Your big data will be nothing but a big liability until you do.

Julie Bartels
October 22, 2013

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