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Michael Brooks

The healthcare industry is reaching a point where information is recognized as a strategic asset that has a direct impact on patient care quality, safety, customer service, and the success of the organization. There is a great deal of interest, some terrific success stories, and many valuable lessons that can be used to improve the management and delivery of high quality healthcare information. In this blog, I'm going to try to keep things simple and focus on the real world strategies, processes, technologies, and resulting lessons learned by healthcare organizations as they strive to get more insight from their information based assets. If you have specific questions, topics of interest, or examples that you would like to share, I invite you to share them with the rest of us.

About the author >

Michael Brooks, Dearborn Advisors LLC, has more than 25 years experience in healthcare information systems, strategy development and business intelligence. During this time, he has provided information systems strategy and consulting assistance to more than 100 healthcare provider and payer organizations throughout the U.S. Michael is a service line leader in the Strategy & Value group of Dearborn Advisors, a healthcare professional services firm that partners with healthcare organizations to maximize their return on advanced clinical information technology investments. He can be reached at mbrooks@dearbornadvisors.com or (303) 499-6767.


Last January, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT) published the Notice of Proposed Rule (NPRM) which provided further definition of "Meaningful Use" and outlined the specific health IT functional measures and clinical quality measures for Stage I compliance. During the subsequent comment period, concerns were expressed by providers, vendors and other parties highlighting the fact that collecting and producing the required measures could be as challenging as implementing the software capabilities.

I believe the respondents concerns are well founded. For decades healthcare software vendors have focused on the automation of specific tasks and workflows while reporting and metrics were treated as a byproduct or the "exhaust" of the healthcare computing process. The result was a tremendous amount of "data noise" with limited content to let decision-makers at all levels understand where the organization stood and what actions were needed. To remedy the situation, extensive manual processes and spreadmarts were implemented to produce the reports needed by senior executives. To be fair, some HIT vendors recently begun to recognize that their customers need better reporting tools and have expanded their reporting capabilities but there is still a lot of work to be done.

On May 17th, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) awarded Northrop Grumman a $34M contract to develop a National Level Repository database to process HITECH incentive payments.  This database will store informatin about whether medical professionals and hospitasl are meaningful users of electronic health records, the date and amount of any incentive payments made to them and their tax identification number.  It will serve as a key component of CMS' infrastructure to collect, analyze and act on the data submitted by providers and will evolve as subsequent HITECH reporting requirements evolve.

While the term "Meaningful Use" has recently become in vogue, many leading healthcare providers have been investing in physician adoption, clinical excellence, and informatics for several years.  These pacesetters recognize that improving the quality of cost-effective care is impossible without the ability to capture and act intelligently on quality management and clinical information.  Many of these same providers also understand that the primary reason for pursuing these goals is to improve the quality and delivery of cost-effective care while the HITECH incentives are merely a temporary facilitator.  As government and payers collect additional information, providers must become more adept at using clinical and performance measures if they are to survive.

As Meaningful use requirements continue to evolve, it is clear that providers will need the data infrastructure and business intelligence capabilities in place in order to measure, monitor, act on, and submit the required measures.  Just as demonstrable excellence in care delivery requires measurable results, there is "no Meaningful Use without meaningful measures".

Posted May 27, 2010 10:00 PM
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It's exciting to see that business intelligence and analytics are finally moving from the back streets to Main Street in the healthcare industry. ARRA/HITECH, Pay for Performance, the eed to coordinate care in multiple settings, cost pressures, and other drivers are triggering a reexamination of the importance of improving the use and management of information assets in day to day care delivery.  
As I began to work on this blog, I became interested in questions such as:
  • What are the core differences between hospitals that get results and those that don't, even when the same vendor product is used by both organizations?
  • Why do some executives struggle to define the metrics that matter while others are able to define a performance measurement framework that leads to competitive advantage?
  • How are some healthcare providers able to achieve outstanding results with a nominal investment while other organizations invest huge sums of money with no clear payback?
While much of the focus continues to be on Electronic Medical Records and interoperability, there are a significant number of providers who are thinking beyond such initiatives to find ways to leverage their information assets to improve clinical effectiveness, operating efficiency, and competitive advantage.  As the industry addresses Meaningful Use and future requirements, these organizations are likely to set a new standard of performance for the rest of the industry.

Through this blog I hope to establish a dialogue with those of you who are interested exploring these questions and related lessons learned.  If you have any specific areas of interest or examples of successes or lessons learned, I would love to hear from you.

Posted May 14, 2010 1:00 PM
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