Analytics boost ACOs in functionality

It's an exciting era for healthcare. Aside from the propagation of new devices and technologies that one can spot in any hospital corridor, the very way healthcare will be delivered is under reconstruction. Accountable care organizations (ACOs) link practices under a common standard of payment and care. While they are becoming the norm for how the business and oversight of healthcare is practiced, there are still a lot of wrinkles to iron out. Mike Detjan, vice president of service lines and Greg Chittim, director of analytics and performance, at Arcadia Solutions spoke discuss three ways that analytics will play a major role in making ACOs functional and profitable.

1. ID heterogeneous data and make it an effective asset. The core idea behind an ACO is that many small practices and organizations, banded together, will be able to provide a wider range of services to a higher standard of care. What happens when each one of those practices has a different EHR system? It's like trying to get a room full of people that all speak different languages to talk to each other. "When you're trying to look at an organization as a whole, how do you normalize that information," asked Detjen. "Having a platform that can normalize that and integrate it is essential." He said having a system that can pull in the diverse streams of information and churn out reliable analytics is necessary because it can build trust across an ACO. "If you don't have the trust in the data, then you don't have a chance to drive change," he explained.

2. Understand early wins in a program and establish momentum. With any new change or development, people are going to want to see results and are going to want a reason to continue. It's just good business to be able to show progress and rally troops for the next initiative. This is where analytics can be a powerful tool. Chittim said the first "big win" an analytics-touting ACO can look for is the success and quality of the data being captured itself. He noted that an ACO feeding good data into its analytics engines will be the source for all other potential changes. "Making sure that you're improving data quality upfront is a quick win," he commented. "The quality of data pushing up to the analytics should accurately reflect the quality of care." When it can be demonstrated that the data driving analytics is sound, it can be leveraged to promote and track any number of "performance improvement sprints," said Chittim, who added that one can look at analytics to solve two questions: "What's our problem?" and "Where are we now?" as changes are made.

3. Drive engagement with the provider network. There is no element of healthcare that can be described as "set it and forget it." Analytics is an ongoing task, said Detjen and Chittim, and recognizing it as such gives its users the power to drive substantial change over time. One important trick is knowing how to use the data that analytics provides. Detjen cautioned against using it to bully. "The physicians out in the field are independent thinkers," he explained. "They have their own opinions...they're the ones out there touching the patients every day." To bring the full force of analytics to bear, he said, "You need a very systematic program that touches the doctors on a regular basis and gives feedback." This way, a constant back-and-forth is kept going, where the input from practitioners informs the analytics that track the quality of care they provide – and vice versa. Chittim described this as "collaboratively designing where you are, when you want to go, and collaboratively designing how we're going to get there." It all boils down to quality data, open and continuous communications and a desire to leverage new technology to improve care. "Having a trusted set of data," observed Chittim, "and teams working together within a healthcare ecosystem – that is what we need to do in order to change healthcare in this country."