Thursday, September 18, 2014

$48 Billion on the table for the health industry!

I recently posted an article summarising a recent recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) health industry report (HealthCast: Global Best Practices in Bending the Cost Curve) which identifies a number of key trends for health organisations to focus on for performance improvement and what my personal experiences are with these 'on the ground'.  Out of all the current trends which I summarised in a previous blog, in this article I am going to discuss.
  1. Data analytics and measurement
Why have I chosen these topics?  Well its for two reasons, firstly, I am currently heavily involved in a number of health innovation based technology projects including Lean-Agile run business transformation project.  Data management is a big topic within this project, so it's on my mind.

Secondly, those good people at PwC must be a very industrious lot because I noticed an article this week in The Australian newspaper highlighting a new PwC report identified that $48 billion was left on the table last year - unused, courtesy of the inability of Australian industry - and particularly the health industry - to fully leverage the potential of data-driven innovation.

According to PwC’s new Data Innovation Index, it is the health industry that is lagging behind the rest and therefore stands to benefit most in the future based on its size, international competitiveness, and assets including technical skill, talent, and volume of data.  For those of us involved in health innovation its not a surprise but still useful to be aware of.  

“It’s the lack of urgency to act on that data, that’s the issue,” Mr Sammy Kumar, PwC’s managing partner for PwC strategy; transformation, told Business Spectator.  He identified specifically that there is an inability to correlate the data set to achieve efficiencies that’s proving to be a problem.  Furthermore that there’s an urgent need to encourage wider awareness of the role data can play in driving efficiencies and productivity.

The key takeaway was that there’s plenty of room for improvement, especially when you compare Australia to a country like Canada. 

IT led innovation is a  core component of the organisation I work at.  UHG has created and developed some innovative solutions over the years and was recognised last year as the BRWs 19th most innovative company in Australia.  The work my team does, managing the delivery of occupational health and wellness services into orgnaisations is highly dependant on IT systems and in the course of providing health services we collect a reasonable amount of data.

In my experiences working with clients, I have observed that because this blossoming access to data is a relatively new phenomenom many people in occupational health management roles simply do not know how best to use it.  Many people in these decision making positions are experts in other areas of management but are not experts in data analysis or data management.  If you were in school in the 70s, 80s or even into the 90s, you would not have not been educated about 'databases' or 'mega-data trends' because they simply didn't exist.

Actually, electronic databases have been in existance since the 1960's.  In the 1980s and early 1990s dBASE was one of the top selling software titles.  But how many people remember that?  I certainly don't, I discovered it just now via Wikipedia!  This leads me into my point, that we need to embrace this new phenomenon and learn about how to get the most from data.
  • Embrace learning about data...its here to stay
I figure that if a boofhead like me who spent school messing around on the sports field can embrace data anybody can.  If you're never going to be a PhD in data analytics its ok.  Find somebody else who is, type 'free data courses' in to google, or just commit to learning a little bit each month.  It just takes the right attitude and a bit of practice.  To make the most of data you need to know what you want to assess or measure.  The more data you collect, the more ways to slice and dice and compare it there are.  If you do not have a crystal clear idea of the objectives and/or the KPIs that are guiding your program or project, then its going to be difficult to know how to use your data.

Program or project objectives need to be determined right at the beginning of an activity.  This implies that part of making the most of data, is being disciplined in how you manage projects.  You have to take the time and effort to get to the essence of what you are trying to achieve so you can clearly articulate your aims.  This is the only way that you can then decide what data you will need and eventually look at to assess results.
  •  Understand your objectives...simplify, simplify, simplify
My final point is that using data to uncover inefficiencies and achieve change requires leadership.
The PwC report highlighted that the health industry is conservative.  It is not the market leader in these areas of innovation and has a lot of areas of inefficiency.  Conservative people like to make changes slowly and can even be described by some as 'resistant to change'.

To lead change in the health industry you need to be proactive and prepared to take action but you also need to bring those around you along for the ride.  There are always alot of hoops to jump through, so you have to be prepared to educate the health professionals and other colleagues around you, and help them understand the value and benefits of embracing innovation.  To do this you need to believe that change is possible, and that others around you can change.  You need to be committed, you need to be an effective leader.
  • Effective use of data requires good leadership
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, just a few observations but hopefully it provides food for thought and action.


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