How is the C-suite fixing revenue leaks?
It’s a challenging time to be a C-suite executive in the healthcare industry. Healthcare organizations large and small are still reeling from the body blows of the pandemic, which only exacerbated pre-existing problems with staffing shortages, health equity concerns, policy and reimbursement changes, and the ongoing quest to make digital data truly usable as a tool for large-scale problem solving.
In this complex environment, executive leaders are under pressure to use their data assets in every way possible to enhance financial sustainability and improve the delivery of patient care. The bad news is that they’re falling short. The good news is that they know it – and they’re ready to make big changes where necessary.
In a new survey of more than 300 C-suite leaders from Intelligent Medical Objects (IMO), a whopping 98 percent said they are aware they have to do things a little differently to prevent inefficient data use from leading to lost revenue opportunities. Ninety percent had already experienced situations where they had leaked or lost revenue due to inadequately leveraging their data assets, potentially leading to missed organizational goals or gaps in patient care.
A similarly overwhelming majority – 94 percent – are actively planning to invest in solutions to address some of the biggest problems facing the industry: clinical burnout and staffing shortages and the looming threat of an economic recession.
“The people who are at the top of the C-suite understand that their data is probably a mess, but it’s hard to fully grasp the enormity of the problem,” commented John Lee, MD, a practicing emergency physician and former Chief Medical Information Officer who now works as a technical consultant. “As a system, we don’t necessarily have the insights to be able to envision what we could do with our data if we were able to curate, share, and analyze it at scale.”
“The fragmentation is paralyzing, and it can be very difficult for organizations to break through that, from the technical perspective, but also from the financial and cultural perspectives.”
Navigating a complicated organizational environment
Organizational inertia, significant staffing shortfalls, integration challenges and an extended timeframe before achieving ROI can all lead to slow progress with making data more useful, the survey confirmed. And working with dozens of different vendors can add to the problems.
Eighty-four percent of executives report working with 20 or more individual vendors, leading 32 percent of respondents to identify integration issues as their top frustration with their data and infrastructure partners.
Nevertheless, 63 percent of executives are planning to invest in additional data enablement software, while 54 percent are looking to implement clinical decision support tools to improve workflows at the point-of-care.
“It’s encouraging to see leaders pushing forward with solutions, but they have to fully commit to the time and expense of truly optimizing workflows,” urged Lee. “There are ways to use our modern EHR systems that make it easier for clinicians to document, but most organizations do not end up putting in the time, effort, or resources into the level of optimization required.”
“It takes a moderate to significant amount of effort, so that’s understandable. And to the financial folks, the immediate ROI can be unclear. But when you don’t make a concerted, coordinated effort, you end up with too many vendors and too many integration issues, which is even more wasteful in the long run.”
Overcoming deep-seated challenges with a strategic approach to change
To see success with their planned initiatives, C-suite leaders will need to carefully examine their existing infrastructure pain points, map out their integration pathways, and identify holistic, workflow-friendly solutions that address the roots of their data integrity concerns.
Investing in additional data abstraction, curation, and analytics technologies can help to break down siloes and surface meaningful information to providers, but these tools must also be matched with EHR optimization efforts to simplify documentation and reduce administrative burdens that lead to workarounds, poor data integrity, and clinician burnout.
“This is one of those broad, strategic initiatives that can start small but becomes exponential in terms of ultimate return,” said Lee. “Plus, as soon as you start to curate one data set, it creates a network effect. If you start by developing well-curated diabetes data, then move to autoimmune data, and then to cardiac data, you’re enhancing each of these datasets as you go along, because they’re all interconnected. The result is going to be better decision-making for patients, and better outcomes, and therefore lower costs so you can reinvest in additional improvements.”
Healthcare leaders should also consider collaborating with professional societies that often hold well-curated specialty datasets that could be useful for population health management and risk stratification, Lee suggested.
“Many times, these societies have incentives to keep these datasets to themselves, which is detrimental to larger industry efforts,” he said. “We need to realign those incentives and change the policies that encourage holding data in these walled gardens so that the EHR vendors, the data solutions providers, and the provider community can figure out how to standardize and share these key elements appropriately. Health system leaders can participate in these conversations and influence decision-making, but they have to make the time and effort to take a seat at the table.”
Leveraging data more effectively to improve care and avoid revenue loss is a long-term effort that will require significant investment in both technical and cultural change.
“The C-suite is under a lot of stress right now, but it’s important not to be tempted into quick fixes that don’t really solve the underlying problems of data quality and integration,” concluded Lee. “The only way to move the needle is to take on the big problems in an incremental but strategic way and invest fully in making our data work for us instead of the other way around.”
Jennifer Bresnick is a journalist and freelance content creator with a decade of experience in the health IT industry. Her work has focused on leveraging innovative technology tools to create value, improve health equity, and achieve the promises of the learning health system. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.