Don’t think I’m shilling for our upcoming analytics conference when I say it’s a real opportunity to leap—not hop, nor shuffle—forward to a position where you can get clinical and financial insights that change the tenor of contract negotiations and give you the ammunition to make a data-driven case for dramatic changes in clinical processes.

The speakers at our event, July 24-25 in Chicago (here’s the conference Web site) are I.T. executives and clinicians whose efforts we’ve profiled in Health Data Management and have been recognized by industry associations and peers as being at the forefront of their profession. (For loyal blog readers, I’m offering a special deal—the first 30 people who register using the code BLG, published only in this blog, get a steep discount--health care provider staff can attend for $295, health insurers $645, and all others $1,245.)

We approached Rick Schooler, vice president and CIO at Orlando Health, because he has a track record of innovation at the health system (one of the reasons he was named the 2011 CHIME-HIMSS CIO of the Year) and gives presentations that are honest and extremely insightful. He’s going to focus on a topic that’s critical for most of our readers at this juncture—getting the human, governance and technological pieces in place for enterprise analytics, and addressing cultural issues that will, if not confronted head-on, are going to bite many providers hard in the rear when they try to roll up analytics.

It’s going to be especially interesting to hear how Rick and other speakers are going to address the workforce issue. We’ve recently written about HIT training programs and workforce shortages, but one angle that didn’t get into that story is the acute shortage of data analysts in this industry. It’s not just a health care issue—recent surveys by Connotate and McKinsey Global Institute about leveraging Big Data found that one of the biggest obstacles is the lack of qualified analysts to go around. Big Data is going to weave itself into a lot of presentations at our conference, but one speaker you really want to hear from on that topic is Thomas Davenport, whose seminal work, Competing on Analytics, helped shape the evolution of the discipline of business analytics. Tom’s latest research is on Big Data, and he’s planning to release a book on the topic this year or next.

So while health care is not alone in needing analysts, a shortage of bodies and brains comes at a really bad time: value-based purchasing is on the march, bundled payments are on the horizon, and no provider—or payer, for that matter—is going to be able to stay in the black if they can’t streamline their operations and deliver more bang for the buck. Throw in the fact that the data analysts needed to support enterprise health analytics are getting lured into energy and other fields that can offer higher salaries and better overall compensation packages than the health care industry, especially since so many of you are facing real financial uncertainty due to the battle over health reform and a continual assault on Medicare reimbursements.

That pretty much loops us around to the other big movement in health care, population health management. I just finished editing our July cover story on population health, and while it’s hard to get a grasp on how it can and will be applied on a national level—especially because one aspect of national population health, addressing socioeconomic health disparities, is a political hot potato—I can tell you that it’s an effort that’s starting from the ground up. At our event, Grace E. Terrell, M.D., CEO, at Cornerstone Health Care, will talk about how Cornerstone made big investments in analytics tools to become a regional health management hub. And Bernadette Loftus, M.D., associate executive director for the Mid-Atlantic States at the Permanente Medical Group, is going to explain how Kaiser has applied research and performance improvement analytics to different communities.

I can go on about how much there is to learn from each and every one of our speakers—you’ll be floored by what Steven Davis, M.D., will tell you analytics has yielded in terms of patient safety and lower costs for Cleveland Clinic Health System—but I’d have to start writing chapters for a novel. But this event, I can objectively say, is going to be something special because of the cast of I.T. leaders we’ve assembled who can give practical advice on how to create an analytics infrastructure at hospitals, group practices and payers. Go to the site and see who I haven’t mentioned, and you’ll understand why I’m excited to be a part of this.


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