Mar 06 2019
Data Analytics

How to Lay the Groundwork for Successful Healthcare Analytics Projects

Many organizations have analytics capabilities, tools and strategies, but best practices can help IT leaders make the most of them.

Data analytics are already at work in healthcare organizations far and wide to inform organizational change and care decisions.

"Hospitals and health systems have mountains of clinical, operational and financial data at their disposal, thanks to the proliferation of electronic health records, time management systems and other sources of data within their organizations," a recent report from HIMSS Analytics notes.

Many healthcare systems are putting this data to use and seeing true impacts on patient care. At Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, for example, the organization is using data analytics to boost performance and create a more transparent culture, Andrea Tull, director of reporting and analytics, quality and safety management for Massachusetts General Hospital, tells HealthTech.

“The technology has definitely helped us up our game in quality improvement,” she says. “Mass General has always been a data-driven institution, but analytics allows us to leverage the data to answer more targeted questions.”

Meanwhile, at Union Hospital of Cecil County in Elkton, Md., analytics helps the organization stay on top of possible security threats and manage clinical quality through the use of data visualization dashboards.

“It’s a really good way to ingest data that is organized and more serviceable for individuals, from security to business,” UHCC HIPAA Security Officer Nolan Forrest tells HealthTech. “It’s incredibly powerful.”

MORE-FROM-HEALTHTECH: See how data lakes can take healthcare analytics to the next level.

Experts Weigh In on Healthcare Analytics Best Practices

But while but while nearly 93 percent of organizations have an analytics strategy in place, the HIMSS Analytics report has also found that many organizations aren’t making the best use of their data, and around 30 percent haven’t been executing on their analytics strategy in some time. Further, data-based decision-making can be siloed, limiting its impact.

Although data analytics can be transformational, organizations must first consider some basic principles prior to deployment in order to avoid situations where data and analytics might become lost or skewed, IT leaders say.


For instance, Cara Martino, a registered nurse and enterprise business intelligence manager for Jefferson Health, says that IT staff need deep organizational knowledge, not just technical skill, to meet the needs of end users.

Lauren Bui, vice president for data management and analytics at Dallas-based CHRISTUS Health, calls data governance vital. “Start by standardizing definitions and identifying core metrics, then make sure that they’re clearly published,” she says.

Tull says that organizations must be sure to start such efforts in areas where they will have the biggest impact. “Prioritize your analytics projects,” she says.

Finally, be clear on the goal of the analysis, says Cynthia Burghard, a research director with IDC Health Insights. “Know what end users want to do with the data,” she says.

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Learn from Your Peers

What can you glean about security from other IT pros? Check out new CDW research and insight from our experts.