A survey of 50 senior IT leaders at individual hospitals and health systems generating more than $500 million in annual revenue finds high interest in data analytics, but not yet a coherent game plan for doing it right.

The Deloitte survey reveals that many are moving headlong in a haphazard manner before settling such critical issues as a clear analytics strategy, effective budgeting and data governance. The hospitals are doing what they can with analytics now as the industry quickly changes and will come back later to formalize an analytics program.

Survey results reflect a great deal of reaction to issues and not as much careful thought on how to build a foundation for analytics, says Mitch Morris, M.D., global health care sector leader at Deloitte. “There’s a lot of niche applications out there. The told ‘Who’s on First?’ is applicable. Organizational structure and who gets to decide is not well-designed.”

The surveyed technology leaders, however, know this. But every department wants analytics and wants it now. There’s a reason that half of the vendors at the 2015 HIMSS Conference had “Analytics” on the wall of their booth, no matter what they were selling. It’s a confusing environment right now, Morris says, with emergency departments buying their analytics along with radiology and a bunch of other departments. “The survey shows a lot of fragmentation and not a strategic, unified approach to analytics.”

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What’s missing is thoughtful consideration of important questions needing answers before an enterprise analytics strategy that can succeed can emerge: Where are we going? How do we get there? Who’s in charge? Where’s the money?

Asked what was most surprising of technology leaders’ responses, Morris says he thought more would say that their organization had done a good job and solved a big problem, but really at this point they are generally solving bits of a problem, absent an enterprise approach. There are lots of competing priorities for funding and attention, so hospitals and health systems are making progress with analytics but not as much as the hype would suggest, and most of those surveyed said they are not as far along as they had hoped.

And, the control issue remains a barrier. “CIOs know what needs to be done,” Morris says. “But there are lots of politics in who gets to control the information.”

Not helping is the fact that analytics, while it excites everyone, still often falls below the “red line” of the budget while bricks-and-mortar projects keep getting funded, Morris says. Further, when it comes to adopting and using analytics, there is mismatch between knowing what is important to do and what actually gets done as other stakeholders have their own ideas. That fuels debates on the right entity to take ownership of analytics.

Providers getting ready for value-based payments, which include a goal of Medicare to have 90 percent of its fee-for-service payments valued-based by 2018, are a big contributor to increasing adoption of analytics.

Asked how realistic the 2018 target is, Morris replied, “I don’t know, but the snowball is moving down the hill, I just can’t say how fast. But soon, the snowball will become an avalanche and be unstoppable.”

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