Thud. A hefty report lands on the conference-room table in front of you. Finally, some concrete data. But committee members are unfamiliar with the format and the content. They find it impossible to sift through the clutter of numbers. (So much for informed decisionmaking!) Instead of making recommendations, a scramble ensues to clear calendars for a follow-up meeting.
But suppose members tapped into the organization's data warehouse ahead of time, says Mark Gamis, a manager with Deloitte Consulting in Chicago. They could have culled and analyzed the pertinent information beforehand. They might have been prepared to take some decisive action.
That, at least in theory, is what most healthcare organizations aim for when they invest in information systems. But technology alone won't get the job done. Healthcare organizations need to help people go from being "data gatherers to information analysts," explains Gamis. His HFMA presentation, "Leverage: Using Information to Your Advantage," set for 1: 15 to 2: 45 p.m. Wednesday, June 23, will focus on the process and cultural changes that need to accompany any data warehousing initiative.
Healthcare organizations produce tons of information but historically haven't done much with it, Gamis points out. The problem is so pervasive it has its own acronym: DRIP. That stands for "data rich, information poor," he says.
That's not the case with many retail and financial organizations, which rely heavily on data to boost business, he says. Grocers, for instance, may dispense coupons at checkout based on an individual shopper's spending patterns.
Similarly, healthcare organizations could be using data to improve patient care and lower costs. They might, for example, help diabetics get on the proper diet or monitor a hip replacement patient's post-surgical care-from nursing visits to rehabilitation, Gamis suggests.
Part of warehousing healthcare data is empowering people to take action, he explains. That's where many organizations fail. They'll invest $4 million to $5 million in data systems, paying short shrift to the people side of the equation.
Start with accessible information systems and then create new decisionmaking processes and behavioral reinforcements, Gamis advises.
In a lot of organizations, a manager might submit a request to the information technology department to produce a report, he says. In "the new world," a manager should be able to access data from his or her own desktop, produce a report, analyze it and draw conclusions upon which the organization can take action. The new-world scenario assumes that employees are well trained on how to use the data system, are empowered to take action and are compensated for doing so.
"What you're doing is taking the dependency out of it and letting people do their own analyses," Gamis says.
It won't happen overnight, though. Cultural and process-based changes are evolutionary and ongoing, he explains. "You can't just flip a switch and have people change. We're teaching people how to think differently."