Healthcare Data Part 1: More than a Buzzword

Healthcare data in “ground level” hands can be much more of a game changer than people often realize.

Gut feelings have kept individual humans alive since we were enterprising primates first stepping away from the safety of trees. Gut feelings, however, are terrible when it comes to the bigger picture. They’re too susceptible to the individual anxieties and experiences of decision makers. These susceptibilities are our brain uses shortcuts—behavioral scientists call these “heuristics”—to help us make decisions using the subset of data that our brains can most easily process.

For example, despite how common it is to be afraid of flying. After all, every time there’s a plane crash it seems to dominate the news cycle for days. Who wouldn’t be afraid of flying? Except the data shows that flying is, unequivocally, safer than driving. One study estimated that for every 1 billion passenger miles traveled by car, 7.2 people die, compared with 0.07 deaths from air travel. The reason for this (relatively irrational) fear of flying is that, though rare, planes crashes do occur and, because of their dramatic, catastrophic nature, they make the news every time. Fatal car accidents unfortunately occur so frequently that they’ve faded into the background of our lives; our gut doesn’t register those data points when determining our fears. This is an example of the “availability heuristic”, which is when we use the data points that come to mind quickly (perhaps because they are sensational, like plane crashes) and extrapolate off of those limited data points.

The above demonstration may be old hat to most people, but it raises an important question: the data is out there to help navigate challenges, both personal and professional, but is it accessible at the ground level in a meaningful way?

Healthcare Metrics

There are few aspects of healthcare that aren’t dominated by the belief in analytics. All medical research is built on data. CMS’s entire value-based care system relies on the accurate capture and analysis of patient data; outcomes, condition documentation, readmissions, etc. Unfortunately, often at the practice and individual care provider level, access to that data can falter, leaving providers and even practice administrators out of the loop on easy ways to evaluate their own processes and those of their partners.

Still, objective data has its place in systems, so building and managing systems without it will result in missing those opportunities to render that excellent care every doctor and nurse strives for.

Ground Level Healthcare Data Access is a Game Changer

Today launches the beginning of an ongoing data series here at The Scope, covering what data could and should be available, and what the opportunities are in ambulatory spaces, particularly for surgeons looking for more from an anesthesia platform.

Even relatively “basic” metrics like cases per day, demography, cancellations, cancellation causes, patient transfers (and causes), transparent insight into all costs (and, in the case of a partnership, those costs prior to engaging the relationship), and all data parsed by site can give clinical leadership and practice administrators unparalleled insight.

Over the course of this series, we’ll share what these metrics can mean in ground level hands, and offer real world examples of how ambulatory surgical practices, particularly office-based organizations have made substantive changes that have helped their patients, their clinicians, and the bottom line once they have access.

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