Healthcare Provider Analytics and Reporting: Expanding Beyond VBC Use Cases
We will release our newest report, 2019 Healthcare Provider Analytics Market Trends Report, in the next few days. This report reviews the current market for provider analytics and evaluates offerings from 23 different vendors.
In recent years, providers invested in analytics technology to support the transition from fee-for-service (FFS) to value-based care (VBC). Vendor offerings that support the variety of pay-for-performance (P4P), pay-for-reporting (P4R), and risk-sharing programs with payers have helped them better understand the interaction of costs, quality, and utilization in the populations they serve. But the applications for analytics are broader than just VBC. Provider healthcare organizations (HCOs) are seeking to leverage these technologies more broadly to support a range of clinical, financial, and operational performance improvement goals and programs.
Provider-oriented analytics availability mirrors EHR penetration. Providers in acute and ambulatory settings have many choices for analytics across multiple use cases. Providers in post-acute settings and others with low EHR penetration have relatively fewer choices. While vendors have devised a number of ways to extend their offerings to underserved settings, not all providers take full advantage of such capabilities.
EHR vendors are often, but not always, providers’ first choice for analytics. Most EHR vendors sell analytics offerings almost exclusively to their existing EHR customers. Independent vendors – not owned by an EHR vendor or a payer – are a strong alternative to EHR companies for value-based care use cases. Claims analytics companies have deep experience with claims data sources or rely heavily on claims-related data to fuel analytics and reporting. Applications from many of these vendors emphasize cost and utilization control and feature deeply descriptive insights into risks, costs, quality, and utilization. Providers have historically been reluctant to adopt these offerings, but that is changing.
This report characterizes current analytics solutions as either “mainstream” or “advanced.” Most HCOs have experience with mainstream analytics – often cloud-hosted and reliant on relational databases that store historical data from the EHR, claims, and other sources. The resulting applications characterize and summarize performance along multiple dimensions. While this technology approach is well-established, mainstream analytics still faces challenges. Chief among these are data quality and variability. Diligence is required on the part of vendors and HCOs to ensure this data is accurate, high-quality, and up-to-date.
Data complexity challenges are only increasing because new data sources are on the horizon. The All of Us program (formerly known as the Precision Medicine Initiative) promises to unleash a torrent of novel and voluminous data types. In addition, the vast trove of unstructured data in EHRs will soon contribute to a better understanding of patient cohorts and risks. Social determinants of health (SDoH), data from smart health monitoring and fitness devices, and a variety of patient-reported and publicly-available data sets are also beginning to be used in provider analytics.
Mainstream analytics has yet to supply a variety of predictive and prescriptive insights; for that, HCOs are looking at advanced analytics.
Advanced analytics consists of interrelated technologies, the most common of which are artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP) and extraction, and big data technologies. These technologies and techniques are not widely deployed in healthcare, but are used to varying degrees by most of the vendors profiled in this report. The expectation is that as these technologies mature, advanced analytics will offer more and better predictive and prescriptive capabilities. Many vendors now offer optional services to help providers take better advantage of advanced analytics technologies. Increased organizational familiarity with AI technologies and algorithms should naturally increase user trust as the technologies mature and become more widespread.
Many provider organizations, with experience gained from their VBC efforts, want more benefits from analytics. Whether it is from their legacy point and departmental reporting solutions, mainstream, or advanced analytics, provider organizations see analytics and reporting as a reliable way to pursue performance improvement goals across their enterprises.
Matt Guldin · 2 years ago
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Predictions in Healthcare: Unpacking the Complications
Interest in predictive analytics in healthcare is on the rise. How long will someone be in the hospital? What are their chances of being readmitted? Which treatment will work the best?
On the surface, these seem like straightforward questions, but it turns out that prediction is not a simple topic. Questions about what data and effort goes into the prediction, how accurate it is, who gets to see it, and how actionable it is can all make a huge difference in its value.
As we start to develop our major Market Trends Report for Analytics, scheduled for release in early 2019, I thought I would unpack these questions a bit.
To start, it makes sense that the more data and the better data you can include in making a prediction, the more accurate it will be. However, you don’t always know what factors will matter the most, or at all.
If you over-collect data to ensure you factor in most everything, you unnecessarily raise the cost, time, and complexity, as data warehouses are not inexpensive and interoperability is still a struggle. If you under-collect, you might miss something important, and clinicians will continue to complain about the burden of documentation.
The recent focus on social determinants of health is promising, but it requires much more data collection and management, along with more sophisticated analytic models. Here, we welcome the contributions of AI and Machine Learning (ML) to help determine which variables to focus on.
Prediction is not a simple topic. Questions about what data and effort goes into the prediction, how accurate it is, who gets to see it, and how actionable it is can all make a huge difference in its value.
Accuracy has all kinds of complications. You’ve likely come across the difference between precision and recall.
With precision, you measure how right you were that something was going to happen when it did, in relation to how often you thought it was but didn’t. With recall, you measure how often you thought something was going to happen, and you were right, but you missed some that did happen. In the first situation, false alarms could be costly, leading to additional tests and much worry. In the second situation, missing an important prediction (such as a cancer diagnosis) could also be costly.
Fortune tellers make many predictions and eventually get some stuff right, but most of us don’t take them seriously; Chicken Little got into trouble when he cried out too many times. Conversely, someone who makes too many conservative predictions might have a lot of credibility but also miss too many opportunities.
Consider who wants to know or gets to see the predictions. Most clinicians, healthcare workers, and leadership teams want do the best they can, but negative predictions about their approaches or performance may not be met with welcome arms. Exposing their problems can lead to potential unwanted oversight by others, reduced funding, etc.
In other words, expect pushback about the quality of the data, the accuracy of the prediction, the motivations of the prediction team, and who is really responsible for the bad trends. Think about how predictions are supported and presented. Also consider the flip side: Positive predictions, if not accurate, may lull an organization into a false sense of security.
This leads to one of the most important questions: How actionable is the prediction, and what can be done about it? (This also brings prescriptive analytics into the discussion.) If the answer is “not much,” there may still be value in knowing it – but you have to brace for impact, as it could also lead to helplessness and negativity; consider the effect of telling a patient they have an incurable disease.
Better in most circumstances to focus on those predictions where positive action can be taken. Some actions might be obvious: You’re running out of medication x, so you’d better reorder now. Others might be more complex: What will be the effect of changing our portfolio mix?
Complexity of action can arise when dealing with interdependent systems, multiple parties, and lots of variables. (Welcome to healthcare!) Like the old game Whack-a-Mole, addressing one trend may lead to unanticipated or unwanted changes in others. Image how well you could play if you knew what was going on under the table. To properly act on predictions, you have to employ systems thinking.
As our data sources grow, our ability to analyze them using AI and ML advances. Given regulatory and market pressure to provide higher-quality care while reducing care costs, healthcare’s need to manage to value also continues to increase.
In the coming years, we’ll see a lot more use of predictive analytics in healthcare, and a lot more tools and vendors to support it. As we analyze these predictive tools, we will focus on how healthcare will employ them to deal with the complexities of data selection, model accuracy, user perception, and actionability.