The era of “big data” is here to stay. Being a “data-driven organization” has been identified as key to achieve value-based care business goals, such as reducing costs, increasing revenue, while improving quality, safety, and patient satisfaction. Yet, for organizations who may be approaching a healthcare data consolidation, a recent and growing trend, there is a list of additional concerns that are best to address ahead of time, to avoid any unnecessary periods of decreased revenue or dips in patient care, and to make for as smooth a transition as possible.
How ready is your organization to tackle healthcare data consolidation and integration that is an obvious side-effect of any business consolidation? When steering an organization through these transitions, David Clark, a Regional Vice President at Michigan-based Trinity Health, said in a recent Becker’s article, that a general lack of readiness at the organizational level isn’t uncommon. Clark urges other executives to “create a sense of urgency or burning platform for change,” and that it’s “really tough when things are going well to make changes.” However, when an organization’s leaders begin to think more competitively toward the future, about what is needed to achieve value-based care business goals, most acknowledge that their organizations are ripe for healthcare data consolidation changes as well — they just need to properly communicate that awareness, increasing readiness within their organizations.
Decide who will own the consolidation from a data standpoint — that is, who will decide the architecture of the data (how disparate data needs to conform to standards), the governance around those standards, and then the actual acquisition of data, where and how data will be extracted and conformed. According to data expert, John Walton, in a Health IT Consultant interview, hospitals who struggle during healthcare data consolidations often do so because they haven’t properly identified what IT person or role will lead the efforts, whether that individual ends up being a Chief Information Officer, Chief Medical Informatics Officer, or some other title within the organization.
Create a standard blueprint of your analytics — what are the KPIs needed to manage the business, regardless of whether there is an EHR switch, or if the consolidation results in separate EHR platforms still being used for cost reasons. Walton suggests that if it takes more than six weeks to nail down these common KPIs, then “you’re overengineering it.” Rather, think of your blueprint as more of a “high-level schematic,” so all stakeholders are going into the consolidation with a fundamental understanding of what the new organization’s data strategy will be.
Decide as quickly as possible which IT systems should be eliminated and which systems should be integrated at your organization. Regardless of your organization’s verdict, and as supported by the statistics the American Hospital Association shared in their recent report about “EHR switch” adoption time (97% of hospitals switch within the first three years following the consolidation), making — and enacting — these decisions swiftly will ensure that your staff is not performing unnecessary dual and manual entry for an extended period of time.
Even if your healthcare organization does decide to migrate users to certain shared IT platforms, including a different EHR, which is perceived as “better” for any variety of reasons, that does not mean all end users will be on board with its implementation. It is important to get buy-in on such sweeping IT changes from the top-down of your organization, but just as critically important to include voices from a variety of stakeholders from within the organization, as is possible — perhaps even organizing an EHR user feedback group or implementation steering committee. This group can help communicate within the organization why system changes were deemed necessary, help troubleshoot implementation, and reassure staff of the value they should expect to receive from their new or shared data systems as a result.
Ideally, organizations undergoing healthcare data consolidation should make it easier to coordinate the care of patients, using more shared IT patient record systems, while slashing redundant costs that would have existed for separate and siloed systems. But all of these improvements are for naught if the patient experience has been diminished as a result.
An NEJM Catalyst article said streamlined organizations could more than likely streamline certain protocols, as well, “which can lead to enhancements and standards of quality care.” Organizations, if they are not already doing so, should keep the patient experience top of mind during transition periods, and throughout all of their business decisions. And there are various mechanisms for acquiring feedback to assure they are meeting patient expectations at each touch-point throughout their care journey.
We look forward to servicing enterprises, both large and small, by connecting their disparate health IT systems, and regardless of whatever EHR and other IT platforms are currently in use or might be migrated. Because only through harnessing data’s power with more interoperable systems, and creating more “actionable” information, can “big data” have the power to do its job — reducing costs, while improving an organization’s revenue, quality, and overall patient experience.