What I Learned at Health Connect Partners Surgery Conference 2012: Most Hospitals Still Can’t Tell What Surgeries Turn a Profit

What I Learned at Health Connect Partners Surgery Conference 2012: Most Hospitals Still Can’t Tell what Surgeries Turn a Profit

As I strolled around the Hyatt Regency at the Arch in downtown St. Louis amongst many of my colleagues in surgery and hospital administration, I realized I was experiencing déjà vu. Not the kind where you know you’ve been somewhere before. The kind where you know you’ve said the same thing before. Except, it wasn’t déjà vu. I really was having many of the same conversations I had a year ago at the same conference, except this time there was a bit more urgency in the voices of the attendees. It’s discouraging to hear that most large hospitals STILL can’t tell you what surgeries make or lose money! What surgeons have high utilization linked to high quality? What the impact of SSI’s are on ALOS? Why there are eight orthopedic surgeons, nine different implant vendors and 10 different total hip implant options on the shelves? It’s encouraging, though, to hear people FINALLY admit that their current information systems DO NOT provide the integrated data they need to analyze these problems and address them with consistency, confidence, and in real time.

Let’s start with the discouraging part. When asked if their current reporting and analytic needs were being met I got a lot of the same uninformed, disconnected responses, “yeah we have a decision support department”; “yeah we have Epic so we’re using Clarity”; “oh we just <insert limited, niche data reporting tool here>”. I don’t get too upset because I understand in the world of surgery, there are very few organizations that have truly integrated data. Therefore, they don’t know what they don’t know. They’ve never seen materials, reimbursement, billing, staffing, quality, and operational data all in one place. They’ve never been given consistent answers to their data questions. Let’s be honest, though – the priorities are utilization, turnover, and volume. Very little time is left to  consider the opportunities to drastically lower costs, improve quality, and increase growth by integrating data. It’s just not in their vernacular. I’m confident, though, that these same people are currently, more than ever, being tasked with finding ways to lower costs and improve quality – not just because of healthcare reform, but because of tightening budgets, stringent payers, stressed staff, and more demanding patients. Sooner or later they’ll start asking for the data needed to make these decisions – and when they don’t get the answers they want, the light will quickly flip on.

Now for the encouraging part – some people have already started asking for the data. These folks can finally admit they don’t have the information systems needed to bring operational, financial, clinical and quality data together. They have siloed systems – they know it, I know it, and they’re starting to learn that there isn’t some panacea off-the-shelf product that they can buy that will give this to them. They know that they spend way too much time and money on people who simply run around collecting data and doing very little in the way of analyzing or acting on it.

So – what now?! For most of the attendees, it’s back to the same ol’ manual reporting, paper chasing, data crunching, spreadsheet hell. Stale data, static reports, yawn, boring, seen this movie a thousand times. For others, they’re just starting to crack the door open on the possibility of getting help with their disconnected data. And for a very few, they’re out ahead of everyone else because they already are building integrated data solutions that provide significant ROI’s. For these folks, gone are the days of asking for static, snapshot-in-time reports – they have a self-service approach to data consumption in real time and are “data driven” in all facets of their organization. These are the providers that have everyone from the CEO down screaming, “SHOW ME THE DATA!”; and are the ones I want to partner with in the journey to lower cost, higher quality healthcare. I just hope the others find a way to catch up, and soon!

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