To say “Digital Transformation” is a hot topic these days in the U.S. healthcare industry would be a gross understatement. A better adjective would be sizzling. Digital transformation remains a hot topic in the U.S. healthcare industry because technology is a primary driver behind an unprecedented confluence of three trends sweeping the healthcare sector:

* The escalating pace of technical advances in medical devices is driving the pursuit of better clinical outcomes for patients.

* An increasing rate of insured individuals is driving demand for better customer service from all healthcare organizations, both providers and payers.

* A continuing wave of mergers and acquisitions in the healthcare sector is driving the need to generate higher profits while controlling operational costs.

Coping with any one of these challenges is a daunting proposition for a business. Put the three together, and the task seems overwhelming for any organization of any scope and scale. That’s why business intelligence is the most promising source of support for healthcare organizations. Just as patient data enables doctors to make better diagnoses, BI can empower healthcare leaders to run better businesses.

In fact, the faster a healthcare organization embraces BI, the better it will cope with the pace of digital transformation. A recent commentary for Health Data Management, “Analytics and Healthcare: Ten Trends for 2016,” by Brian Denton, associate professor at the University of Michigan, underscores this point. While Denton’s column provides an excellent overview of what’s happening and why it’s happening, his column does not explain how it will happen.

For healthcare organizations of all sizes and specialties, IT Managed Service Providers (MSPs) will play three critical roles in enabling BI beyond installing tech tools. For healthcare organizations, MSPs can:

* Bring a specialized skill set – technical and functional – not native to the organization

* Add resources (i.e., people) to existing staff as necessary

* Mentor business teams through the BI process from design, through implementation, to adoption, with continuing support.

The third role may be the most important, as research by the Society for Information Management revealed through its 2016 IT Trends Study, which bucks conventional wisdom that business technology is more about tactics than strategy. This same traditional thinking holds that MSPs are mostly arms and legs, not brains with experience.

For healthcare companies, whose staff and budgets are stretched to match the demands of today’s confluence of market forces, MSPs can contribute as business consultants, facilitating seven steps of BI evolution. Here are those steps in the order they should be pursued:

Strategize: Before considering apps and implementations, MSPs can moderate discussion with a healthcare organization’s leadership about business plans and goals. The conversation should have a linear sequence, clarifying the current state of the company’s IT before delving into the particulars of any future state. Also, a clear distinction must be drawn between what the business needs and what any technology stakeholders may want.

Prioritize: MSPs should shed light on the level of effort that will be required to meet the client’s goals. No budget in any business is bottomless, a reality that is keenly felt under today’s conditions. Level of difficulty often maps to level of expense. And, the pace of transformation should be set according to available funds.

Analyze: MSPs should guide healthcare clients through the process of developing key performance indicators, establishing baselines and setting realistic targets – before any new technology is implemented.

Evangelize: Communicating up, down and across an organization for “buy in” from every level in each department at all branches takes considerable discipline. But it’s an effort that should be made before implementation, too. MSPs should assist by sharing successes and lessons learned from helping other healthcare clients. Through experience, most MSPs should know what to say and how to say it when making the case for BI.

Customize: By working through the first four steps of BI with a client, MSPs will have insight into building solutions specific to that organization. Few healthcare executives would believe “one size fits all.” But even fewer will know how to do the proper sizing. An MSP should.

Optimize: Just as new BI technology needs to be customized to the nuances of a client’s business, those solutions must be calibrated for peak performance in certain functional areas, such as finance, operations, clinical facilities and others. Again, an MSP’s experience with other healthcare businesses in comparable situations delivers value that a firm would have trouble generating on its own.

Visualize: Like the “Optimize” phase, imagining and articulating the next generation of a BI solution and what will be necessary to support it is challenging without specific expertise and experience. MSPs should have these two attributes in abundance.

Digital transformation is an imperative in the minds of today’s healthcare leaders, BI can deliver the most transformative power for healthcare organizations, and MSPs can be the most powerful catalyst.

Ryan Jaeger is BI Developer at NxtTeam, a managed service provider specializing in business intelligence. Before NxtTeam, Jaeger spent nine years in various IT and data analysis roles in healthcare organizations.

 

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