At HDM’s Healthcare Analytics Symposium in Chicago, consultant Becky Quammen laid out the challenges that small hospitals face when seeking to advance beyond data reporting and starting to do meaningful analytics.

Quammen’s July 15 presentation gave a good look at what resource-limited hospitals face when moving deeper into analytics and the types of data needed to drive results. Based on the experiences of a community hospital CEO client, she walked through the frustration of not having the data you really need and the CEO feeling like he drives blind most of the time with incomplete information with which to make decisions. He wonders how to reduce the noise of the gross amount of data coming from information systems and find the useful and pertinent data that can help leaders decide what matters.

The CEO wants real-time access to data to know what happened yesterday, today and the past month, and not a report based on months-old data. He wants data pushed to leaders that can give insight into what will happen next month and what services should be trimmed or expanded. He wants access to data in IT systems that should not take five months after implementation to get at, but should have been in the product from the start. And, he wants more accurate data.

I was sitting with two data administrators from a community hospital that is interested enough in analytics to have sent both to the symposium. When the presentation was done, I asked where they will be a year from now, and the answer was surprising.

“We’ll probably be where we are now,” they said, and the frustration on their faces was evident. Interest in moving beyond reporting and into more comprehensive analytics aside, they are stuck with reporting for the foreseeable future. Reporting for meaningful use and a package of government-required quality reporting initiatives leaves little time for advancing in analytics.

Yet, advancement is what they and other providers must do if they will survive and thrive under value-based care initiatives and reimbursements fostered under the Affordable Care Act. They are finding no regulatory relief from the government, which four years after reform became law still haven’t even harmonized reporting processes across initiatives and just keeps adding more regulatory burdens that stymie efforts of providers to improve their performance.

If new Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell wants to leave a legacy mark on her tenure, finding where her department’s policies are hindering provider innovation and giving relief would be a good start.

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