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Data-Driven Decisions Empower Value in Health Care Systems

Published on 12/6/2017

Recently while preparing for the holiday meals and travel with my father, we were getting his medications from the facility where is resides. At 84, he prides himself on knowing all his medications by sight, color and generic plus formulary name! During this preparation event, he mentioned to the nurse that he preferred “blister packs,” where the medication comes pre-cut and sorted by day, because he no longer must cut pills in half when he spends time with family.

To me, this is an example of simple value creation. Sometimes the simple things like blister packs are taken for granted – when the reality is that long-term care facilities can make dispending medication more efficient when residents are off-site. In this blog, we’ll dive into how health care leaders can measure value, as well as use data to drive decisions that add value.

What is value?

Value is in the eyes of the consumer. When defining value, many start by looking at the values they themselves believe. Core values are our underlying personal qualities, defining who we are, how we think, what we stand for and what we won’t stand for. Our personal values guide our individual principles, define our culture and impact our performance.

In health care systems, core values are critical. The core values help create the organization’s foundation and strategy for clinicians and all other staff, and we shouldn’t think of value as a code word for reduction of expenses or an abstract idea.

The goal for all providers of health care delivery in any venue is to provide high value. Sometimes, value is lumped into cost savings or defined as the health system outcomes achieved per dollar spent. Value is in the eyes of the consumer, and should always be defined as such. Whether a patient, family member, a colleague or an associate, a focus what is important to the consumer (value) is critical.

How do we see value measured in health care?

In a well-functioning health care system, value depends on results and can be measured through outcomes. Many initiatives focus on value like pay-for-performance, value-based purchasing, value leadership and preventing hospital-acquired complications, focus on value. Each initiative benefits from an examination of efficiency of processes by conducting value stream mapping and developing value-added activities to drive out waste.

Efficiency is best examined through process improvement methodologies that focus on assessing, analyzing, developing, executing and optimizing across the continuum of improvement. Measuring outcomes through process improvement to remove the waste in a process enables value. Knowledge and optimization delivered through continuous improvement can influence a health system’s performance and outcomes.

For health care leaders, outcomes critically impact reimbursement, patient satisfaction and health outcomes. For example, blister packs increase medication adherence in adults and may help keep down cost arising from disease complications. Evidenced-based standards of care help provide the information or data to deliver safe and quality patient care. It’s important that health care leaders continue to support and facilitate evidenced-based practice through research, theory and process improvement initiatives in their pursuit of value. This can elevate best practices and reveal role modeling behaviors, and in some cases, can lead to recognition through awards such as the Malcom Baldridge National Quality Award.

How do we use data to drive value?

In health care, understanding value in the eyes of the consumer leads us to listening to what is the consumer is telling us through clinical and operational data including surveys, written comments and market research. One piece of data that is often missing is consumer preference data, which captures averages of trends in consumer preferences, or descriptive information. Instead, using consumer responses to categorize major preferences enables data to be proactive by providing insights based on patterns and relationships found in data sets. We can then use patient preference data to influence consumer behaviors by recommending one or more courses of action through machine learning.

As health care leaders, we use data to drive decisions and empower the voice of value to enhance processes, people and technology. Data provides the “triple-D” we need: data-driven decisions. These will empower health care systems to become learning organizations that ultimately deliver value to the consumer.

The key to data-driven decision making is ensuring the right data is going to the right clinician to make the right decision. By incorporating patient preferences, we will help improve efficiency and drive additional value in the eyes of the consumer resulting in adherence to treatment plans. My father and I worked together on his preferences and developed with a plan that would help us, and then communicated that to the facility. Ultimately, we worked together to improve care efficiency and align to the value in the eyes of my father.

With the holidays right around the corner, we are excited for my father to independently manage his medications using blister packs while he is away from his facility. This empowers him and makes the medication administration process and care plan compliance very easy when he is with us. There are no longer struggles with cutting pills in half or worrying that his “half” is not quite right.

As health care leaders, we need to focus on the data we need versus where it resides. Data-driven decisions allow us to leverage historical and new data to inform process improvement strategies, incorporate data into our workflows and impact value in the eyes of the consumer.

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