Analytics market struggles with value-based care, EHRs make inroads, study finds

Analytics functionality has improved measurably in recent years, according to Chilmark Research, but workflow integration remains a key hurdle.
By Mike Miliard
10:59 AM

Though analytics technology is evolving to help healthcare providers manage the switch to value-based care, the market is still playing catch-up, according to the "2016 Clinical Analytics for Population Health" report published this week by Chilmark Research.

Analytics functionality has improved measurably in recent years, according to Chilmark, but workflow integration remains a key hurdle, with clinicians who could benefit from point-of-care insights unable to use the tools optimally.

For example, too often providers are required to exit the electronic health record and toggle to a different clinical portal for analytics reports, the report said.

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Healthcare organizations are already working to arrive at analytical insights for their population health and value-based reimbursement goals – and integrate those processes into their clinical workflows. To help with that, they're seeking vendor partners who are up to the task.

"While our findings reflect significant advancements in the industry since the 2014 edition, not a single vendor earned a full 'A' rating as no solution is currently meeting the user engagement and clinician workflow needs of the healthcare organizations these products are intended to serve," writes Chilmark analyst Brian Murphy in a blog post.

Chilmark profiled more than two dozen vendors in the report – from payer-developed analytics tools such as Aetna's ActiveHealth Management and HDMS, technology from EHR giants such as Cerner and Epic and other big players such as IBM Watson.

Providers are now straddling two different payment regimes, Murphy said. Value-based reimbursement necessitates scoring quality benchmarks, while existing fee-for-service frameworks mean closing gaps in care is key to cash flow. Ideally, clinical analytics tools in 2016 should help address both.

But as health systems aim to lower costs and cut utilization, most tools are still underperforming on that front. Murphy pointed to a dearth of product offerings, for instance, that feature functionalities that could detect excess imaging tests or antibiotics prescriptions, or overstays in skilled nursing facilities.

Still, workflow integration remains perhaps the biggest barrier to effective analytics use.

"While most vendors can provide their solution to an EHR user, few do this in practice," he said. "Making these applications palatable to a distracted and time-pressed user population is not easy. The most frequently described use case involves an ambulatory setting in which an office manager prepares physicians and other clinicians, via a morning huddle or patient-specific face sheets, with information about patients with care gaps being seen that day."

Meanwhile, Murphy said EHR vendors are making progress in the analytics space – with companies such as eClinicalWorks, Epic and Cerner bolstering their clinical intelligence functionalities and continuing to see strong adoption.

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"They enjoy a kind of home field advantage over the independents with the large hospital and health system customers that all vendors are targeting," he said, adding that independent analytics vendors continue to enhance their products and make market inroads.

Vendors profiled in Chilmark's "2016 Clinical Analytics for Population Health" report include The Advisory Board Company, Aetna ActiveHealth, Aetna HDMS, Arcadia Healthcare Solutions, Caradigm, CareEvolution, Cerner Corporation, Conifer Health Solutions, eClinicalWorks, Epic Systems Corporation, Geneia LLC, Health Catalyst, HealthEC, IBM Watson Health, McKesson, Optum, Oracle, Orion Health, Premier Inc., SAP, Tableau, Transcend Insights, Truven Health Analytics, Verisk Health, Wellcentive, Inc.

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN