In today’s environment, healthcare professionals are called to do more with less. They are expected to meet increasing patient demand for personalized care while operating with a dwindling workforce. To optimize care delivery amid the growing tension between limited workforce capacity and heightened expectations for higher-touch, more personalized care, leaders can empower employees with data and technology tools and capabilities.
From artificial intelligence (AI) to electronic medical/health records (EMRs or EHRs), the healthcare data and technology landscape has progressed significantly in the last decade. Innovation is reshaping the entire healthcare value chain.
- Each year, healthcare providers can process and store data more affordably and more quickly, making data tools and capabilities increasingly accessible to a diverse range of workers. Healthcare providers now have the ability to work with, sort, and make sense of unstructured data, giving healthcare teams the power to unlock detailed patient insights.
- New data and technology capabilities are also improving workforce strategies—from finding and hiring best-in-class talent to building career development paths that drive retention and everything in between.
- Data also allows healthcare organizations to deliver on increased patient demand for personalized care. Data-driven care creates more transparency and access to information, frequently leading to better results, engagement, and experiences for patients. It also supports the move toward data equity. Contrary to some concerns, data-driven does not mean “lacking humanity.” Instead, a culture empowered by data fosters an environment where both providers and patients can be more human and have their stories and needs better understood.
Despite the industry’s progress, there’s still a significant amount of work to be done to equip providers and patients with the ability to maximize the power of data and technology. The sheer volume of data available today and how to extract and analyze it remains a challenge, not to mention creating organizational feedback loops with the resulting insights. Data and analytics (D&A) is considered a key enabler for organizations (36 percent) as they strive to implement transformation strategies; however, when unaddressed, it is also the top barrier according to 34 percent of leaders who responded to our December 2021 survey.
The importance of working through these challenges cannot be overstated. Healthcare organizations can build a data-driven culture by focusing on three areas: mobility, productivity, and sentiment. In this blog, we’ll explore each.
For healthcare professionals, mobility is a product of the tools and information employees use to perform their jobs. For patients, it encompasses how they connect with a facility, practitioner, or treatment and move through the healthcare journey.
Data plays an important role in mobility, for patients and providers alike. EMRs and EHRs are a key piece of it and support efforts to move toward data equity.
Imagine a world in which you, the patient, have one medical record that follows you from provider to provider throughout your life. This has been both an aspiration and a great challenge for years in the U.S. healthcare system. The days of completing paperwork each time you visit a new healthcare facility would be gone. With a single record, you could have an unprecedented view of your medical history, and so could your providers. This might empower you to play a more active role in your care and strive to better understand the factors that matter most to you. With the data in your hands, you are more empowered to partner with your provider in managing your health.
For the healthcare workforce, data interoperability drives efficiency (i.e., eliminating duplicative versions of data) and enables personalized experiences. Data interoperability is how individual patient data exists and moves throughout a system, among separate doctors, dentists, specialists, and more. Data tools and capabilities—such as EMR/EHR—enable efficiencies without sacrificing personalized care. A single EMR creates continuity in your care, even when you need to switch providers. With a centralized record, healthcare providers can see the full picture of your health even before you’ve arrived for your appointment, allowing them to spend more appointment time focused on building a relationship with you and developing your individualized care plan.
Data also allows healthcare professionals to make more informed decisions in patient care, which reduces costly mistakes, like prescribing or delivering the wrong medications. With better information and more access to it, providers will feel supported and more confident in care plans and decisions (thereby improving sentiment, a topic we’ll discuss later in this blog).
Data can also help providers understand how patients flow in and out of a healthcare facility to uncover patterns in referrals, obstacles to care, and timelines for treatments. This allows the workforce to make better decisions about care, ensuring each individual patient is getting what they need most.
When healthcare systems enable mobility and improve the sentiments of patients and providers, it can increase overall engagement. This in turn can have positive impacts on productivity. Let’s explore.
In healthcare, productivity can be measured in many ways. For instance, how many appointments were scheduled and completed? How were they handled, and did patients receive the follow-up care they needed? Ultimately, productivity is about helping both patients and providers get to outcomes faster.
Achieving productivity amid the ongoing labor shortage is a perplexing and urgent challenge among healthcare organizations today. The industry is experiencing a historical number of job openings, and some teams are stepping back to consider which roles are most critical. In this landscape, employees and leaders must adapt and identify new ways of working as smaller teams while mitigating the risk of burnout. Leaders must prioritize retention simply to sustain productivity.
Leveraging data is a crucial way to support productivity (and retention) in healthcare today. Industry players often experience high turnover due to burnout and other obstacles. Learning from data and creating onboarding approaches based on those insights help leaders engage new team members and get them up to speed quickly.
By integrating insights, healthcare teams can also create new ways of working and enhance care delivery. For instance, collecting data about the productivity of individual facilities, practitioners, and time periods can highlight where gaps exist. And with proper D&A tools and processes, these insights can also suggest how those gaps might be bridged. Shifting from current to desired patient care delivery requires timely data that the workforce can act on to make real changes.
For example, leaders are discovering that certain portions of upfront work can be passed to patients themselves. Tasks previously completed by front-desk agents, like uploading insurance information, can now be done by patients digitally before an appointment or via automated processes. This frees up time for employees to complete higher-value activities. This new process can also introduce more control over an individual’s medical information. Patients are engaged before the appointment even begins, and more quickly move toward a healthcare journey that feels affirming and successful.
Data tools and capabilities also support providers’ ability to spot challenges and solve them without slowing a patient’s treatment process. Providers that feel supported and have access to insights that help them operate at the highest possible level are both more productive and engaged in their work, which in turn can support profitability. Engaged patients and workforces are also directly tied to higher sentiment – a vital factor in successful transformation and change management.
Sentiment, simply defined as how we feel about a given experience, is a powerful driver of behavior. For healthcare providers, it's how they feel about the work they are doing; for patients, it's about their feelings toward interactions with teams and the care provided by those teams.
In today’s environment, where healthcare leaders are increasingly challenged to find, develop, and retain talent, sentiment is critical to get right. And that’s where data comes in. With the right insights, leaders can plan experiences accordingly and focus on alleviating stress points they have control over, protecting provider well-being and bolstering retention.
In the same way that patient satisfaction has been measured for years, measuring provider satisfaction is now critical; an engaged workforce will naturally offer better patient care. Healthcare leaders can tap into data to better understand and monitor how individual employees feel about their work experience, the changes they are exposed to, and the resources available to them. For example, individual employees will feel differently about new tools and capabilities, and data can help you gauge sentiment to support employees through change. Choice is a critical factor in employee sentiment. Humans are driven to control the course of our lives—including our work experiences. Healthcare leaders who give employees discretion over how and when to engage new tools, or create flexibility by understanding what works best for employees, are likely to see greater adoption and sentiment.
Consider the introduction of MyChart, a web portal and mobile phone app that gives patients access to their medical records and enables direct communication with healthcare professionals. Some employees may readily embrace MyChart for its ability to streamline processes and enable efficiencies. Others may reject the technology because they’re intimidated by it or feel like it creates extra work. Leaders can leverage data to track sentiment around MyChart—and keep a pulse on the impacts of change in general on the employee population (via change saturation intelligence). With the right insights, leaders can respond by providing employees with choice and flexibility to interact with the healthcare system, and with the technology, in a way that works best for them. With some control over their environment and the tools they work with on a daily basis, the workforce will feel empowered by technology, rather than hampered by it. Sentiment should improve as a result.
Much like for employees, choice is also critical to patient sentiment. For example, access to data in a centralized EMR gives some control, ownership, and choice over to patients, empowering them to take charge of their experience and care. Empowered patients are typically engaged patients.
Seven Steps for Integrating Insights
A mature organization with a sophisticated data infrastructure can facilitate more efficient journeys, drive better workforce retention, and most importantly, deliver the best patient care. So how do you build a data-driven organization? Start here:
- Educate employees on the role data plays in their lives and work. For teams to effectively leverage data, they must first understand the value it creates in the work they do, what insights can be gleaned from it, where to find it, and how it can transform both the patient and provider experience.
- Increase access to data. If employees need to dig for information, it’s not usable. Employees need access without D&A expertise. This starts by having a strong digital core. Your digital core helps your business sense change through data and respond to it effectively through capabilities – ranging from your technology and your operations to your people.
- Make data a part of your organization’s language and ensure everyone—employees and leaders alike—speak the same language. Establish a common language around data to support equitable decision-making and equip employees to deliver on those decisions, even when turnover is high.
- Define the path to data literacy by considering governance, tools, competency models, metrics, and more.
- Prioritize regular reskilling and upskilling to continually evolve ways of thinking and working. This will help build employee capability to leverage insights and ensure individual employees possess the skills to make better decisions by applying data.
- Create a culture of data users and thinkers. Leaders in healthcare must better anticipate changing talent and skills needs (this is a top priority for nearly every leader we surveyed in December 2021, with 97 percent agreeing or strongly agreeing that successful transformation requires this mindset). When it comes to data, think through the skills your employees will need for the future by engaging in future-focused workforce forecasting and leveraging scenario thinking. These approaches, along with the shared language of data mentioned above, help teams make decisions in line with their values.
- Don’t discount the fact that people can provide qualitative data that is just as insightful and important as the quantitative data your tools collect. Tap into the power of Voice of Employee data. AI-powered analytics platforms can rapidly mine large volumes of data, including quantitative and qualitative, structured and unstructured, internal and external. This rich data set allows you to craft a portrait of the employee experience, from the time they apply for a role, to onboarding, and finally, to their departure from the organization. Within this portrait, you can link key topics to employee emotions, sentiment, and cognitive states, in turn, allowing you to pinpoint the underlying drivers of desired behaviors. It’s about moving from thinking to knowing; data from unstructured sources can be “codified” to tell a collective story.