Health systems make gains, bit by bit, with analytics

But C&BI approach too often 'fragmented, with limited coordination at the enterprise level'
By Mike Miliard
10:01 AM
illustration of people holding up growth chart

Use of analytics by large hospitals and health systems is on the rise, and should continue to grow – although "perhaps not as dramatically or rapidly" as some might hope, according to a new Deloitte survey of CIOs and CMIOs.

The 2015 U.S. Hospital and Health System Analytics Survey, from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, polled chief information officers, chief medical informatics officers and other senior IT leaders in health systems, academic medical centers and large hospitals (revenue greater than $500 million).

One of the biggest and most gratifying takeways? Spending on clinical and business intelligence capabilities does correlate with analytics success, and those surveyed agreed that investments in these tools is key to effective participation in value-based care initiatives.

[See also: Providers embracing clinical & business intelligence]

But many organizations are still working to develop their analytics strategies, according to Deloitte, especially with regard to data governance and budgeting.

In fact, "respondents at several organizations" – about one in three, in fact – "indicated they lack clarity on their current analytics spending, so it is difficult to determine their future spending," according to the report. "Explanations for this pattern may lie in challenges such as culture, operating models and fragmented oversight. More than half of the respondents mentioned these factors as top barriers for analytics adoption."

Other factors clouding the waters include tight budgets, a confusing array of product offerings – and a lack of clarity on just what analytics means.

[See also: Analytics: making sense of it all]

Nonetheless, more than three in five health systems reported their organizations plan increased investments in advanced analytics tools for clinical and population health functions.

Part of that is likely due to the successes that are already being recognized by health systems with more mature C&BI capabilities.

"Health systems using analytics for more mature applications (i.e., advance analytics and forecasting) report greater success with analytics for their business functions," according to Deloitte. "Like a virtuous cycle, the more success organizations achieve, the more likely they are to invest in additional advanced analytics solutions and benefit further."

Even at health systems that have embraced analytics in earnest, however, some nuts and bolts aspects remain problematic.

Data governance can be especially tricky. The report finds that models are often "fragmented, inconsistent and varied."

Indeed, just 20 organizations surveyed say they have a "clear, integrated strategy for analytics deployment across various business functions," according to Deloitte.

Meanwile, 21 respondents "report that they do not have a formal enterprise-level data governance process and only six have a chief analytics officer," the report finds. Three-quarters of health organizations polled do have "a department dedicated to delivering analytics to the enterprise," however.

[See also: Analytics means we 'roll up our sleeves']

One health system that is finding some success on that front is Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in Boston.

"At Beth Israel Deaconess, we have engaged governance," CIO John Halamka, MD, told Deloitte.

With a centralized analytics model, regular board committee meetings to hash out analytics strategy and a commitment to communicating that strategy to all leadership, BIDMC aims for a much deeper understanding of variations in cost and care – and looks to drive big improvements in quality and efficiency.

"An EHR is fine for a single doctor to do analytics, but it is not enough for population health or care management," said Halamka

Read the full Deloitte report here.