As information technology investments shift from electronic health records to analytics applications, the process of getting clinician support starts all over again.

Fresh off the effort to get physicians to use electronic health records, providers may face similar challenges in getting them engaged with analytics.

James Whitfill

While most organizations are early in the transition, continued progress in adopting analytics will be crucial for success in delivering high quality, cost-effective care under value-based systems, according to speakers at a roundtable discussion, “Analytics in Healthcare Comes of Age,” sponsored by McKesson Corp.

The discussion, held in conjunction with the HIMSS16 annual conference in Las Vegas, saw speakers agree on the need to get clinician support for analytics, inject analytics into workflows, and move from gathering data to achieving insights.

EHR systems are good for gathering information, but now that those systems are in place at most healthcare organizations, they’re beginning to look at layering on applications that enable analysis of the data, says Jonathan Niloff, MD, vice president and chief medical officer for McKesson Connected Care and Analysis.

But installing software is only a first step; getting clinicians to take on the additional role of data analyst is important for analysis efforts to take hold and foster a culture of continuous improvement.

Scottsdale Health Partners has tested approaches to instilling an analytic culture by taking on a few value-based plans, says James Whitfill, MD. “We’re now taking the lessons we’ve learned and pushing them throughout the entire integrated delivery system,” he added.

Panelists in the discussion all cited the importance of having a strategy to pull clinicians into this new role.

Physicians must believe that analytics are being used to support care improvement and will not be used surreptitiously to grade physicians, Niloff said. As a result, fears must be allayed, and having a physician champion supporting an analytics effort helps.

The specter of taking on additional work with analytics also is a concern for physicians, says Thomas Carlough, PharmD, pharmacy data coordinator for Atlantic Health Systems. Physicians tend to have that reaction with new systems because many had bad reactions with the increase in hands-on computer documentation that they assumed when they started using EHRs.

“When we roll out technologies to the users, the value proposition is difficult to describe to them,” he said. “The amount of work they have to do in logging information invariably does increase.” Carlough said that clinicians took on additional work with new analytics applications, but they eventually were won over because discoveries made with data resulted in quantifiable improvements in care and operations.

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“When we roll out technologies to the users, the value proposition is difficult to describe to them."

Clinician leadership is important, said Danyal Ibrahim, MD, chief data and analytics officer at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center. “They are truly behind analytics, and offer support and advocate for what our patients really need,” he said. “Physicians in general are suspicious about data,” and IT executives need to use finesse and explain the methodology for what initiatives are trying to accomplish.

Gaining credibility, for both the data and analytics initiatives, was “the No. 1 issue for us,” said Thomas J. Van Gilder, MD, chief medical officer a vice president of Transcend Insights. “Some of our success has been with transparency, just showing the clinicians the origins of the data.”

“It’s critical to have clinicians as a part of the team,” Whitfill added. “You need to be able to link the analytics to your audience. You have to appeal to the heart and soul of the clinicians.”

Ibrahim says he invites physicians to see the source of the data, look at the analysis and critique the early results. “We make sure that we share with them the methodology, all the things we’ve done to make sure the data is valid, and then ask them to be the expert; we ask them if they agree or not, or if what they see is right.”

“We expect give and take,” Carlough said. “What we’re really doing is agile product development or rapid application development. With the first iteration of anything I might do, I don’t expect it to be anywhere near what will work. We take input and then iterate over time.”

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