The Future of Healthcare Analytics

As healthcare providers and administrators continue to pursue the so-called Triple Aim – to improve patient experience of care, to improve the health of populations, and to reduce the per capita cost of healthcare – they are increasingly turning to more powerful, emerging tools for analytics to aid in the efforts. In fact, a recent study estimated that the healthcare analytics industry will reach $53.65 billion by the year 2025. 

As a result, technology leaders are investing more time and brain power into developing new tools that help close the gap between patient care and the provider’s view of the big picture, leveraging data sources that continue to grow at an exponential rate. Today’s “smart” products are prolific in the private sector – from watches that record a person’s health habits, to voice-activated digital assistants in the home that can deliver a wide range of information at a moment’s notice.  

It makes sense, then, to investigate how similar smart technologies and analytics can be implemented in healthcare, looking at ways to make procedures and practices more effective and efficient by leveraging the large amount of patient-centric data floating around. This available info, however, can be overwhelming, pouring in from countless different data sources. To be made useful, it must be augmented and combined into easy-to-process views that can help drive decisions through powerful analytics tools. 

The availability of healthcare data –and the proper tools to process, analyze, and share it – can improve efficiencies and patient experience throughout the healthcare spectrum. The future for both patients and providers promises to be significantly more seamless and efficient. For example: 

  • More Efficient Patient Records: Hospitals face no shortage of data and patient records. From admission to discharge, then on into billing, pages and pages of a paper trail have historically followed a patient throughout his or her journey. Today, electronic patient care records (ePCRs) – built and maintained with Electronic Health Record (EHR) software – are gaining momentum, making it easier for providers to access, update, and share important patient information. 
  • Data, Starting with First Responders: Thanks to mobile technology and open platforms, ePCRs can essentially be started by the first responder, who can gather basic information as well as first impression from the incident. Customizable digital forms can be created to be specific for the most common or time-sensitive health conditions – such as stroke assessment – to ensure that the most important questions are answered and recorded at each and every call. 
  • Easier Hand-off at the Emergency Department: In the rush of the arrival at the emergency department, digital (and more complete) patient records reduce the hand-off time from EMS to hospital staff, allowing all teams to operate more efficiently and focus of the job of assisting the patient, rather than having to be brought up to speed or completing the same questions again. Physicians can easily pull up all information on the patient, rather than having to call down to the records department for paper copies. This lightens the workload across the spectrum. 
  • More Efficient Shift Changes: In the same way, nursing staff – who research shows are chronically overworked – can spend less time at shift change, knowing that all data in the ECPR is updated and reflective of a full-patient history. This allows the new shift to jump into action right away, and the outgoing shift to leave on time, promoting better rest between shifts and increased safety on the commute home. 
  • Lightened Workload on Records Staff: In the past, hospital record staff faced a seemingly endless mountain of paper records that had to be reviewed, inputted, and saved. By utilizing ePCRs, this workload is greatly reduced, increasing efficiencies and staff satisfaction, even reducing the number of stress-related sick days taken by staff. Records that are already in a digital format, and that can be easily reviewed and updated, allow employees to focus on new initiatives and improving the workflow across the records and billings process. 
  • Better Patient Follow Up: Once a patient is discharged, their health journey is obviously not over. A major cause of concern for healthcare providers (and cost for insurance companies) is readmissions. Today, many insurance companies employ specialists (often nurses) who contact recently discharged patients to ensure they understand all facets of post-hospital care, from their medications to their follow-up appointments. By leveraging healthcare analytics tools that aggregate population information for a specific geographic location, the follow-up specialist can obtain a better understanding of the socio-economic factors any given patient may be facing that could complicate his or her recovery. This demographic information can lead to a more informed conversation, and awareness of red flags. 
  • More Communication Between Providers for Improvement: New record-sharing software tools allow hospitals to share back information with first responders and EMS teams to evaluate performance and identify areas for possible improvement. The opportunity to openly communicate and review cases and statistics promises to not only improve efficiencies, but patient outcomes as well. This sharing of information may very well help identify new assessment criteria for various diseases and help first responders gather information earlier in the process that providers down the line may urgently need. This data can also help ensure proper state and municipal funding for Fire Departments and EMS agencies who must complete audits and reviews on a regular basis. 
  • Improved Identification of Areas for Future Healthcare Growth: From analyzing the number of providers in a geographic location, to seeing what the most common ailments or risk factors are in a city or county, healthcare data can help providers understand the best and most needed areas for growth. For example, a specific city may see a high number of age-related diseases or conditions due to the average age of its population. This knowledge can help hospitals not only staff their facilities correctly, but can help healthcare providers identify locations where their specific services may be most in need. 

The bottom line is that the data is there, and only promises to keep increasing. By investing time and money into the proper tools, healthcare providers can harness the power of this available information to achieve the Triple Aim and improve all facets of healthcare.