Before you begin devising a healthcare data strategy, make sure you visualize what you want to achieve by the end of the process.
With such a never-ending stream of patient and billing data pouring into your healthcare organization, it might seem like an impossible task to try and wrangle it in such a way that it makes sense or provides valuable insight. But don’t let the abundance of information overwhelm you. There is a clear path to having a good data strategy for your healthcare organization.
At Saxony Partners, we address a wide range of distinctive and unique data strategy tactics with our clients every day. Here are the basic principles to understand before you tackle healthcare data strategy decisions.
Step 1: Start with Your Decisions
When devising a data strategy, it’s actually best to start with your business decisions, not your data.
“The entire point of data strategy and analysis is to improve decision-making,” said Alan Stein, Vice President of Saxony Healthcare. “So, let’s begin with the decisions you need to be data driven, and then work backward to see what data you need to make those decisions better and faster.”
On a parallel path, you begin to understand your company’s data sources and data uses. Then, you and your consulting team will be able to determine the best strategy and processes for your unique business needs.
For instance, rather than transferring all of your data into a cloud-based enterprise data warehouse all at once, you may opt to do so in stages so that you can begin utilizing your data for analytics purposes.
“We make a list of critical pain points and prioritize them,” Stein said. “Then we look for the areas we can improve the fastest and most efficiently. We shoot for projects that take less than 8 weeks so that our clients can see immediate, objective success.”
No matter what you decide to tackle, make sure you visualize what you want to achieve at the onset of a new project.
Step 2: Extract Your Data
Once you have decided what you want to do with your data, you need to free it from any external systems.
“A key element to data strategy is getting your data out of your transaction processing systems,” Stein said. “Specifically, extracting data from any sort of EMR, practice management, billing, charge capture, or any other business apps you have. Even though you can access your data within those systems, you need to have your data replicated outside of them and integrated into a single source of truth.”
Step 3: Document Your Data
Before, during, and after the data extraction process, it is critical to document everything. If and when a problem arises with your data, you will be able to more easily identify what happened.
“You have to make sure the process you use to extract your data is visible and easily maintained,” Stein said. “That way when something goes wrong, you can troubleshoot it without serious problems organization-wide.”
“Many healthcare organizations make the mistake of skipping this step. They use software to grab data from a wide variety of sources to use it immediately, but they don’t document the process they are using to extract it. Then when problems arise, they have to start over again to fix everything that went wrong.”
Step 4: Store Your Data in a Single Source of Truth
After your data has been extracted from the variety of sources where it used to live, it can be cleaned and organized into a single source of truth, like an enterprise data warehouse. We recommend storing your healthcare data on the cloud, because you will have more opportunities to use it for innovation later on. (Read more about healthcare data and the cloud here.)
Step 5: Make Sure Your Data is Compliant
When you store your data in a single source of truth, data governance and integrity become top priorities.
“You must make sure you are in compliance with HIPAA and any other security regulations,” Stein said. “Data security breaches occur most frequently during these processes. It is critical to make sure your employees fully understand what data security means, and your processes match up with what it means.”
Step 6: Analyze Your Data
Now that you have secure access to raw data organized in a single source of truth, you can begin to use that data to help you make better decisions as an organization.
“Once your data lives in one single source, you can analyze and compare different pieces of data from different programs,” Stein said. “For example, by pulling data out of both your billing system and your accounting system, you can run multitudes of new analytics. It gives you totally new insights.”
When it comes to data analytics, Stein recommends examining all business practices top to bottom to discover where simple, impactful improvement can be made.
“You need to determine which data sources are connected to the decisions you are making as an organization with data mapping,” Stein said “Not only major strategic decisions, but also smaller, daily, tactical decisions. Examining these decisions will allow you to determine whether or not they can be automated to save time and money.”