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How healthcare executives can turn data into action


AHIP presentation: What should payers and providers be doing with all of the data they are collecting?

Data. Data. Data. It seems like the entire healthcare industry is buzzing with efforts to collect more data - from data on patients to data on physician and hospital performance to data on costs. But what exactly should payers and providers be doing with all of that data they are collecting? 

That's a question Pamela Peele, PhD, chief analytics officer, UPMC Health Plan; and Sherri Zink, vice president of medical informatics at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee sought to answer during their presentation, "Leverage Predictive Analytics to Gain Insights into Big Data," at the America's Health Insurance Plans Institute 2015 Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.  

READ: Analytics a top priority for majority of healthcare companies in 2015

The most valuable analytics for healthcare organizations are those that use data to predict what will happen in the future, and help organizations make optimal, data-driven decisions, said Zink and Peele during their June 4 presentation. Still, they acknowledge, getting to that point is no easy task, considering the wide variety of structured and unstructured data being collected from a variety of sources. 

"As health systems move further into the electronic space, the volume of available data is exploding, but ever-increasing data sources can actually degrade the value of data," Peele told Managed Healthcare Executive before the conference. "Data needs to be harnessed into an actionable context.  Without a framework that allows us to weave disparate analyses together into a coherent whole, we are simply experiencing a rainstorm of 'dots of information,' all demanding attention in an environment with a finite amount of attention. The power of big data is in how it is served up, not how much we serve up."  

Peele cautioned that if healthcare organizations don't look closely at how they are using their data, they could experience some serious financial ramifications.

"Major financial investments are ongoing in the healthcare industry to create and capture massive amounts of data," she said. "Unless big data actually changes decision making, we are not getting our value from that investment.  Understanding how to make sense of huge and disparate data sources is the key to unlocking the power of data."

Zink added that if healthcare organizations don't consider how to turn their data into "actions" that can be operationalized to meet business or customer needs, "data is just data."

Next: Three Tips for Leveraging Data



When leveraging predictive models, healthcare organizations must consider the whole person, bringing into context their decision-making process as it relates to clinical, lifestyle, and psychographic components, Zink told Managed Healthcare Executive before the conference.

"This is important to drive engagement that is personal and that correlates with the next best action for that constituent at their point of need." She added: "Our ability to harness that data and create insights and actions from it will help drive value for consumers and providers."

When embarking on a mission to turn data into actionable information, healthcare organizations must not "underestimate the time, effort, and training that is required for the organization to internalize and operationalize the data insights you have developed," said Zink. "This is an important component to creating a 'win' for the organization and the customers or stakeholders you are servicing."

She identified three critical components to success when attempting to make data actionable:

1. An integrated data warehouse;

2. Transformational predictive models integrated with core operational systems; and

3. Reporting and analytics that show performance metrics and impact of the action with a constant feedback loop into the process to drive continuous improvement opportunities.

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