Now more than ever: The need for a new approach to healthcare analytics in a post-COVID world

Tim Duer

Data, Analytics, Healthcare, Covid-10

June 30, 2020

The “new normal”. It is a term that has now become all too common in commercials, articles, and commentaries about our (attempted) emergence from COVID-19 restrictions, but what does it mean for health systems’ data teams? Hospital systems have gradually been increasing their utilization of data for patient acquisition, value-based decision making, and predictive patient care, but these conversions have been slow to emerge and hardly maximize the data available. Can hospitals use the chaos and upheaval that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic as the catalyst to advance the utilization of data analytics for strategic decision making?

Telemedicine

One of the most apparent shifts in health care models that has occurred during the pandemic is certainly the rapid move to telemedicine. While the technology necessary for telemedicine has been in place for years, it took a significant event like the COVID quarantine to rapidly propel a transition. Facher (2020) states that “we thought it would take years and years to develop [the presence of telemedicine]. And it’s probably been accelerated by a decade”. While telemedicine appears to be an effective and acceptable mode of care that will be here to stay, health systems now need to determine how it can best be integrated into the comprehensive delivery model. This will require surveying patients and providers to assess when telemedicine was effective and when a face to face interaction is preferable. These answers are likely to vary for different populations and settings throughout the country. Hospitals will need to be careful not to take shortcuts with this planning, ensuring that telemedicine helps to propel effective care, not just prioritize convenience over quality. Analysis of outcomes and satisfaction will need to be rapid and substantial to best implement this tool in the future.

Predictive Modeling

While there has been significant discussion regarding the short term financial impacts of missed care delivery, namely the $202.6 billion in losses for America’s hospitals and health systems from March through June 2020 (AHA, 2020), it is more difficult to predict the long term health impacts. As patients have missed preventative care visits, it will be challenging to assess what health impacts follow.

As health systems continue to move towards value-based care models, increased attention has been placed on preventative care and predictive medicine. Data tracking can help providers to determine what care is most essential in avoiding health decline. This information can be utilized to improve patient messaging and hopefully increase care compliance. Preventative care optimization is the key component of value-based care, delivering simple interventions or monitoring to reduce future costly and complex services. To achieve this goal, it is essential that systems utilize not only their patient data, but also coordinate these results with all published evidence as well.

References

AHA (May 2020). Hospitals and Health Systems Face Unprecedented Financial Pressures Due to COVID-19. American Hospital Association. Article Facher, L. (2020, May 19). 9 ways Covid-19 may forever upend the U.S. health care industry. STAT. Article