Take Action Toward Meaningful Use

Meaningful Use has left many healthcare organizations in a quandary as to how to transform themselves into HIT-driven entities. The data integration challenges alone of assembling and connecting clinical data with financial and operational information can be both daunting and costly. According to a recent report by HIMSS Analytics, between 30 percent and 40 percent of current U.S. hospitals may be at risk financially and operationally for not meeting Meaningful Use criteria due to a lack of HIT expertise and resources. The reality is — it has been a constant struggle for healthcare organizations to utilize technology effectively to improve operations and increase the quality of service while decreasing cost.

At the same time, transforming healthcare is not necessarily just a technology problem; it is also a business process problem. Healthcare organizations must understand key inter-related capability and enablement challenges related to business processes before they can apply useful technology solutions throughout the organization. Data must not only be “accessible” but also “actionable” and delivered in a way that aids, not hinders, the ability of healthcare professionals to service patients. Otherwise, health information technology is not truly effective, even if it becomes widely adopted.

Business intelligence (BI) technology has been identified as a key enabler toward achieving Meaningful Use. First and foremost, BI technology solves the data integration issue by transforming raw data into usable information. It can enable healthcare providers to access virtually any source system and file format used within an organization, regardless of where the data is stored. With real-time, any-source access to information, healthcare organizations will be better able to achieve compliance with some of the 2011 Meaningful Use measures for reporting (such as percent of claims submitted electronically to all payers or percent of orders).

BI also facilitates ease-of-use and user adoption through interactive dashboards that provide Web-based, intuitive and visually dynamic information access to users and serve as a convenient medium for displaying the Meaningful Use metrics and key performance indicators defined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Dashboards allow users to understand immediately what action to take when indicators are out of compliance and where to find resources to support those actions. Visualization options such as trending data and control charts provide users with an early warning system for anticipating potential problems, such as a spike in hospital-acquired conditions (HACs) or staffing bottlenecks around holidays. This allows users to be proactive, instead of simply reactive, to data trends and alleviates IT involvement.

Without BI technology, healthcare organizations may have difficulty identifying and validating the data sources required to generate the Meaningful Use metrics defined by CMS. Decentralized data repositories and transactional or operational systems with limited data or interoperability can hinder efforts to extract data efficiently. Resource constraints on heavily utilized systems can significantly narrow the time window available for extracting source data. This, in turn, can limit the frequency with which data is refreshed in the reporting and analytics platform, and may limit its utility for healthcare providers.

BI also helps organizations meet the published Meaningful Use measures for flexible reporting and information delivery options, not only internal to the organization, but to external government agencies as well. BI technology can provide users with secure, auditable, role-appropriate information access via a number of flexible delivery options. Physician scorecards, operational dashboards, real-time e-mail alerts, mobile device support, advanced data visualization and ad-hoc analytical tools are standard functionality. Information can also be exported to a number of popular formats such as Adobe PDF documents, MS Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint and HTML pages. A highly customizable BI reporting engine can deliver Meaningful Use data in CMS-specified formats and a central point of administration can minimize IT resources and training costs.

Additionally, with the powerful ad-hoc analytical capabilities found within business intelligence solutions, healthcare practitioners can “move beyond the report” to conduct root cause analysis of the factors that drive deviations from the Meaningful Use metrics. BI platforms can help users identify problems and can provide the advanced analytical functionality required to isolate and understand the myriad issues that underpin those problems.

Demonstrating Meaningful Use may seem like an ominous task for healthcare organizations but it doesn’t have to be, if BI technology is used as a “means to an end.” BI technology can help healthcare organizations truly leverage their data, not just report it; and, actually transform their organization, not just reap financial government incentives.

Fred Powers is a co-founder and CEO of Dimensional Insight Inc., a provider of BI and performance management solutions that empower enterprise users with data-driven decision making abilities. He can be reached at fred.powers@dimins.com.

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