By Brendan Watkins, Chief Analytics Officer, Stanford Child Health.
Regardless of the industry, the purpose of analytics is to make better use of data to improve organizational understanding, which leads to better decision-making. In healthcare, this applies to both individual clinicians who make judgments based on patient needs and the healthcare system as a whole.
The healthcare industry has had (and will continue to have) challenges with the way we collect and analyze data. Now the healthcare sector is facing another challenge: To simplify the multitude of information available to us in such a way that the most important findings are immediately clear and implemented.
This is becoming increasingly difficult in pediatrics. While children are generally a very healthy segment of the population, it is important to understand the unique social and environmental conditions these patients experience – and how these manifest themselves over time as they grow and mature at various stages. It’s also important to remember that while children are generally healthy, many pediatric and adolescent patients have complex care needs.
Here are four ways analytics and data can help improve population health for patients and families.
- Bringing patients together with the social resources they need: Analytics and data management help clinicians understand the social determinants of their patients’ health, such as food, housing, and other economic conditions, and enable organizations to address these issues systemically. In the case of vaccines, for example, Stanford Children’s Health added health equity analysis to its governance program, which has enabled the team to allocate and align the resources needed to deliver vaccines to the most vulnerable patients in our community.
- Give organizational management: Analytics are a powerful tool for strengthening an organization’s alignment and priorities. Operating in a federated analytics capacity with curated data is powerful because it provides a deeper understanding to people who are able to influence the goals of the organization. Aligning these efforts is critical and requires the energy and resources devoted to analysis to be consistent with the organization and its mission. When there is no alignment, there is no focus and companies are missing out on the opportunity to understand where improvements are needed in clinical, strategic, financial, and operational areas.
- Optimizing the patient experience: Analytics can provide insights into the experiences patients face when interacting with doctors in a clinic or hospital. It is important to understand both positive and negative experiences of individual patients and families in order to further improve care and, of course, identify areas that require additional attention or improvement. Similarly, analytics help us understand a patient’s access to providers and the flow through the hospital system from admission to surgery to discharge.
- Detection of coverage gaps: Analytics can help organizations identify which patients have received certain types of care or certain routine preventive measures (such as vaccines). With this data, organizations can quantify where there may be gaps in their patient population and community. This gives them the information they need to better tailor public relations in both geographic access and communication. Not only does this provide the ability to identify the areas where patients have been underserved, but it also allows them to quickly change and step up digital health, telemedicine, or virtual health efforts to fill those gaps.
Overall, the analysis of the organization should provide an understanding of all functions within the system. Like any role in a company, analytics teams have limited resources. It is most effective for teams when there is a central function to collect, organize and manage data elements and to provide curated data resources. The use of data throughout the company provides the necessary knowledge in a timely manner.
When the analytics are in the same direction as the business, healthcare executives can better align priorities and energy usage. They serve as a powerful function within an organization, helping to understand patients, the community, and the internal workings of the system as a whole.
I firmly believe in the opportunity ahead of analytics, which is harnessed as a positive force, especially on health equity issues. As data collection becomes more sophisticated, analytics will inherently become more complex, but it will remain exciting and rewarding for any organization that uses it properly.
So we can really use data to improve care – and to care for our patients and families.
Thank You For Reading!