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David is a Global Industry Solutions Director for Public Sector & Healthcare at Qlik.

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Global trends sweeping healthcare: how analytics is helping the industry to respond

What lessons can be learned from global healthcare developments in the digital age, and can analytics be used to improve across all areas?

There is no doubt that the healthcare industry is caught in the midst of transformative times. Whether that is in terms of costs, pay structures, approaches, or access. You name it, it is changing. 

Five major global trends, tightly interconnected and relevant in both public and privately-funded healthcare environments, are driving much of the change. Here, we examine how healthcare organisations are responding, and how analytics can support clinicians, patients and leaders during this critical time.

 1. Unsustainable costs

The World Economic Forum recently stated that the “costs of healthcare have outpaced economic growth by an average of 2% in OECD countries for the last 50 years.” Now, emerging economies are also beginning to face similar challenges. In response, many countries and health systems have implemented reforms in the shape of wellness and prevention approaches to healthcare, increased collaboration with community partners, and new pay models that emphasise patient health outcomes.

Using analytics can also help to support these reforms by enabling healthcare providers to better monitor patients, improve operational procedures and more accurately track treatment and treatment costs against outcomes. Data analysis can benefit both patients and the organisation, by improving patient care and reducing the amount of hospital re-admissions and the length of hospital stays. Texas Children's Hospital, for example, used a visual analytics platform, QlikView, to take a deeper look at hospital acquired conditions among patients. 

Armed with an understanding of the common characteristics of children who developed these conditions during hospitalization, they were able to work very closely with the Clinical Process Improvement Teams to hone in on how they can improve quality of care, and take preventative action. They were also able to analyse patient’s admission and readmission rates to gauge how effective intervention was.

 2. Lifestyle illness

Approximately 80% of an adult’s health is determined by lifestyle choices. While medical advances have meant a reduction in infectious disease cases, we now face an even greater threat: non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that result from unhealthy lifestyles.

Healthcare organisations need to try and tap into the enormous potential of prevention if they are going to tackle this challenge. This includes addressing the social determinants of health, promoting interventions like vaccinations, accident prevention and wellness, and letting patients take a more active role in their own health.

Analytics supports the prevention agenda by enabling healthcare providers to more quickly identify at-risk patients and promote wellness by letting patients access their own health analytics. The right analytics platform will provide healthcare providers with the whole story around population health, as opposed to relying on silos of information.

 3.  High concentrations

The top 1% of healthcare users consume 30% of health resources in many developed countries. Nearly half of the top 1% is elderly, with the top killers being preventable conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

In response, healthcare organisations are placing more focus on the 1% by addressing issues that lead to ill health in targeted population segments, reforming the model of care to more efficient and effective treatments.

Analytics supports this focus on high concentration by enabling healthcare systems to quickly identify at-risk patients and proactively intervene. By using analytics to assess the effectiveness of past treatments, they are also able to deliver a higher level of care. 

4. Care misalignment

Healthcare institutions and professionals often work in isolated silos of practice. A lack of integration can, however, often translate to negative experiences and poor outcomes for patients.

To combat this, healthcare organisations are integrating people and processes more than ever before, actively encouraging interdisciplinary teams of professionals, and enabling collaborative, patient-centred care - especially for chronic disease.

The use of analytics can support team alignment by enabling healthcare providers to integrate secure patient data across multiple systems, providing patients, departments, specialities and clinicians with a holistic understanding of the situation.

The Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, for example, pulled together data from any number of sources into a system which could be accessed by directors, consultants, clinical nurses, ward sisters and other senior managers. This meant that managers were able to present information that had previously been inaccessible, and rapidly respond to the requirements and information needs of front line staff. This resulted in improved patient care and hospital management. 

5. Digital Health

Healthcare technology is still catching up with other industries. Many systems are still paper-based, report data is frequently months old and collaboration among disciplines or institutions is still uncommon. Healthcare organisations need to modernise core transactional systems, while controlling costs and ensuring all new technology has an impact on health.

Analytics has massive potential to improve health and cut costs by enabling simple access to real-time patient and institutional information, integrating data across the continuum of care, and providing new insights into treatments and outcomes.

Analytics can also be used to provide new visibility for more targeted research studies. As one of the largest hospital networks for children’s visits in the U.S., Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is a preeminent research enterprise for paediatrics. Using analytics to integrate data going as far back as 1985, CHOA research users are able to query multiple databases for population identification, diseases, demographics, visits, lab orders and results.

In the past, researchers and physicians had to wait 4-6 weeks for the reports and detail they required for grant proposals. Today, they can instantly access a portal that offers a complete picture of the clinical experience, in particular, the diagnosis-treatment-outcome relationship, leading to more effective and targeted research studies.

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