Hospitals & Health Networks: What to Do When Your Report “Garden” Turns into a “Wasteland”

Report Garden to Wasteland

Today’s hospitals and health networks strive to improve sustainability on two critical fronts: reduce energy use and waste, which is good for the environment; and intelligently cuts costs and spending, which is good for the bottom-line. What’s more, hospitals must compete for top talent, patient loyalty and community fundraising dollars. A demonstrated and established commitment to sustainability — on both levels — supports these objectives.

However, there is another aspect of sustainability that is not as apparent, even though in the bigger picture it is just as crucial for organizational stability and streamlined operations: sustainable reports.

Lessons from Gardening

Anyone who has tried their hand at gardening has discovered, usually to their surprise and sometimes to their dismay, that it is not a set-it-and-forget it experience. It is a long-term commitment that requires ongoing attention, because variables constantly change: temperatures, seasons, sunlight, moisture levels, soil quality and, of course, the relentless threat of avowed garden enemies like weeds, insects and dig-happy squirrels. As such, it is up to each gardener — whether they are of the casual or the award-seeking kind — to adjust and adapt to what nature brings their way.

In a similar sense, hospitals and health networks must constantly re-calibrate their reporting function and framework, and ensure that it aligns with changing conditions and current needs. Otherwise, it is only a matter of time before any or all of the following events emerge — or better stated, erupt — and turn their report “garden” into a “wasteland”:

  • Source Data Changes: A report that was working fine suddenly breaks because the vendor who owns the source system makes a change, such as altering the name of a table or field, or moving a field to a different table.
  • Regulatory Changes: The government imposes new regulations. For example, in late 2016 the behavioral health ICD-10 codes changed. The bad news? Reports did not! Yes, they were displaying behavioral health data, but it was not accurate due to the outdated codes. Eventually, the resulting hue and cry led to an update that, it goes without saying, should have been made alongside the new codes — not months later.
  • New Business Initiatives: A hospital opens a new urgent care center, but the current reports cannot monitor admissions — which means leadership has no idea whether the center is adding to their business vs. redirecting it elsewhere.

Furthermore, the most valuable reports are not always those that provide definitive answers, but rather, they are the kind that enable end users to dig deeper, ask more refined questions, and ultimately obtain better insights. In other words: good reports trigger the demand for more good reports. This characteristic is not a weakness in the reporting system, but a strength. At least, it should be. Yet, when end users cannot even find the optimal starting point for their investigation, then getting the right, best answers is the exception rather than the norm.

An Ounce of Prevention…

While we have it on good authority that Benjamin Franklin was not referring to reports when he coined the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” his sage advice is indeed the rallying cry for every hospital and health network whose garden of reports is more of a wasteland — and it certainly should be for every organization that wisely prefers learning from others’ mistakes vs. their own.

Considering this, all organizations — those struggling to get the reports they need, and those that want to avoid the risks and challenges described above — should focus on partnering with an external consulting team that:

  • Rapidly mobilizes to ensure that reports for all end user groups — executive, clinical, business development, QA, administrative, and so on — are optimized rather than obsolete.
  • Liberates beleaguered healthcare IT teams from report-related support requests that they do not have the resources or expertise to solve (and have never claimed otherwise!).
  • Regularly audits report usage, so leaders proactively know what is working and what is not — instead of bracing for impact and having to wait for something to break before alarm bells go off.
  • Is 100% “vendor agnostic” and therefore provides objective, unbiased feedback to help leaders make educated decisions regarding reporting system investments, upgrades and enhancements.
  • Is demonstrably cost effective, and clearly helps organizations increase their ability to respond effectively instead of react frenetically to unforeseeable internal and external changes.

The Bottom Line

Healthcare reporting will, alas, never be as soothing and relaxing as cultivating a beautiful garden. But at the same time, it does not need to be — and frankly, cannot afford to be — a barren wasteland where data is difficult to obtain, understand and apply.

At Polaris, our enterprise reporting service provides decision-makers with the expert guidance and powerful tools they need to streamline data analysis, and make informed decisions that are necessary to succeed on today’s challenging and constantly-changing health care business landscape. From identifying data needs and pain points, to system configuration and optimization, we ensure that organizations transform healthcare analytics into what matters most: actionable intelligence that drives faster and better decisions.

To learn more about our solutions, technologies and approach, contact the Polaris team today.

Are You Ready to Get Started?

  • We are the fastest, easiest, most cost effective way to leverage your healthcare data. Why wait when you could be saving time and money today!
  • Learn More