Most of the data from today’s use of analytics in healthcare come from an organization’s electronic health records system. That is a rich source, but ancillary information systems are just as rich and should be better tapped than they are.

Dashboards mostly tell “lag indicators,” or the sources of problems, but not how to fix them, explained Rhonda Bartlett, vice president and chief clinical officer at Quammen Health Care Consultants, during a presentation at the Healthcare Analytics Symposium, sponsored by Health Data Management.

The key is to get dashboards actionable—to get actionable information in use on the front lines to improve care, Bartlett said. For instance, we know that bar-code supported medication administration systems have greatly improved medication management, yet medication errors remain a leading cause of death. That’s not getting the right information to the right people in an actionable format they can immediately use.

Also See: CMS Data Chief Urges Use of Medicare Data Analytics Tools

Most dashboards focus on lag indicators and are good at uncovering such information as how many lab tests are done, how many radiology procedures are done, and how long these tests and procedures took. These and other analyses help to understand underperformance. But they provide little insight on where the problems really lie and too often providers are the ones burdened to figure it out.

Lead indicators are metrics that predict what is to come, by focusing analytics on staffing levels, training, budgets for training, processes, supplies, equipment, and other indicators that assess the support being given to staff. A lab department, for instance, may experience frequent supply shortages. Analyses of lead indicators can pinpoint how to improve standardization of critical processes, which is a step toward understanding how to fix the problem.

But most organizations focus on EHR and billing data when doing analytics, Bartlett said, and it’s time to expand horizons. “You have most of the information you need buried in pharmacy, radiology and other ancillary systems. Bring in more than just the EHR and billing systems.”

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