Hospital executives see rising needs for predictive analytics, but use of the capability is only emerging within healthcare, and some believe that their organizations lack appropriate data or tools.

Nearly 80 percent of hospital executives believe healthcare can be improved through the use of predictive analytics, a population health management tool that can help providers manage costly challenges, such as preventing readmissions and handling fluctuations in patient census.

However, only 31 percent of respondents to a recent survey say their organizations have used the technology for more than a year, and nearly one in five (19 percent) say their organizations have no plans to use it.

The survey involved 136 health professionals who responded to an online survey in August conducted by Health Catalyst, a data warehouse, analytics and outcomes vendor.

“Overall, the survey findings point to a growing need within the provider community for solutions that help to identify long-term rising-risk patients who are on their way to becoming high-cost consumers of heath care,” said Levi Thatcher, Director of Data Science at Health Catalyst. “With an ever greater light being cast on system-wide inefficiencies, providers are hungry for analytics that will help them identify and treat these patients before their health deteriorates, both improving their lives and reducing needless spending across the system.”

Some 32 percent of current responding users and non-users of predictive analytics say they believe the top barrier to its adoption is the lack of appropriate data or tools and infrastructure. The next most significant barriers were a lack of people or skills (mentioned by 26 percent) and lack of executive support or budget (noted by 20 percent).

Hospital leaders participating in the survey voiced strong demand for the technology. In addition to the 31 percent of respondents who already use it, 38 percent said they plan to adopt predictive analytics within the next three years, and 14 percent of that group say they will adopt it in the next 12 months. Still, nearly one-third of respondents are not as likely to implement predictive analytics any time soon. In addition to the 19 percent who said they have no plans to use predictive analytics, another 11 percent said they are unsure whether they will use it in the future or not.

Both current users of predictive analytics and prospective users agreed (58 percent) the top priority for its use is to alert caregivers to interventions that may prevent health declines among high-risk patients, according to the survey. Asked to name the top three priorities for the use of the technology, respondents assigned the second and third spots to predicting financial outcomes (52 percent), and improving the ability of providers to negotiate contracts with insurers (42 percent).

Other priorities for predictive analytics identified by respondents were projecting patient health outcomes and satisfaction (38 percent) and improving the quality of diagnoses (33 percent). Falling last on the list of priorities was the forecasting of staffing and supply chain needs (27 percent).

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