3 Potential Impacts Real-Time Operational Data Can Bring to Your Healthcare System

By Jon-Michael Smith, Head of Healthcare & Life Science Analytics – Data Integration, Qlik
Twitter: @qlik

Hospitals generate an enormous amount of data daily, which can be turned into actionable insights that can better operations, save costs and overall produce better patient outcomes. However, if the data is siloed or housed in various conflicting formats, it can be outdated, incorrect or valueless once accessed by its user.

Since March 2020, these insights have been more important than ever, as hospitals deal with erratic patient volume, staffing and resource demand as the virus fluctuates and evolves.

There are several types of data that hospitals should be tracking, two of the most important being patient health data and claims data. In the current hospital climate, hospitals should be prioritizing a more proactive approach and leveraging real-time data operations data. Real-time data gives users a 360-degree view of what they’re tracking by combining historical data with current data, making it easier to conduct a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the dataset and fueling more data-backed decision-making.

For example, one of the largest Catholic health systems in the United States approached my team in need of assistance integrating and merging data from the organization’s various healthcare platforms. Working across six distinct Epic environments and two Cerner environments, the organization was able to move all data from the software into a singular data lake. This integration has given leadership a holistic view of the organization’s real time and historical data, allowing smart, data-driven decisions about patient care and community populations more quickly.

Naturally, both healthcare providers, administration and patients alike can benefit from the use of data analytics. Below I share three of the most positive impacts real-time operational data can bring to your healthcare system.

More Intelligent Staffing

In a recent survey, more than a third of nurses said that they plan to leave their current jobs by the end of 2022, most noting burnout and high-stress work environments as the top reason for leaving their jobs. Fortunately, real-time operations data can allow leadership to conduct more intelligent staffing — such as triggering more nurses only when they’re needed — and as a result, doing more with less. Gaining this visibility into whether a department is appropriately staffed (not under or overstaffed) in real time can yield tremendous cost-saving benefits. This can indirectly help improve staff workloads, job satisfaction, reduce turnover, and prevent burnout.

Identifying Inefficiencies

When it comes to optimization of in-hospital workflow, every phase can impact likelihood of achieving favorable and timely patient outcomes. However, the very nature of hospital workflow is that it is moving quickly and sometimes decisions just have to be made in the moment. The COVID-19 pandemic has added further strain in the form of additional safety precautions and emergency departments navigating overwhelming patient volumes. While teams simply can’t get bogged down in reviewing and analyzing each case’s workflow, they can look at data metrics (such as patient flow by hour, length of stay and time-to-RVU) to determine where things are not working and to make changes quickly.

Reducing and Reallocating Funds

Hospitals are faced with increasing pressure on their financial departments, especially as fluctuating COVID-19 demands affects different variables. According to a February 2022 report, United States hospitals have seen a significant increase in expenses since the start of the pandemic, with total expense per adjusted discharge increasing 43.5 percent since January 2020. Labor and non-labor expenses were also up 57 and 35.5 percent, respectively. Robust real-time data can aid organizations in successfully identifying, and anticipating areas that are in a spending influx or in contrast, need additional funds. Pinpointing these metrics can give clarity into where new streams of revenue should be allocated to and where cuts need to be made in others.

Now more than ever should hospitals garner the power of data analytics to uncover new ways to reduce costs and optimize payments, while delivering better patient outcomes. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to linger and periodically surge, healthcare systems need to capture a true holistic view of its operations, which is only capable through the power of real-time operational data.