Hospitals: How to Stop Getting “Dinged” by Enterprise Reporting Consultants

Enterprise Reporting Consultants

As consumers, we all have experienced the frustration of getting financially “dinged” by various businesses. For example, banks and wireless companies are notorious for tacking on nebulous service charges. And since we do not want to send blood pressure levels surging, we will not explore the wild and weird world of airline carrier fees.

Yet, as maddening as these surprise costs are, in terms of bottom-line dollar amounts they pale by comparison to what some vendors get away with in the B2B space. And unfortunately for hospitals, enterprise reporting consultants can be among the biggest culprits.

To be fair, we are not suggesting that some consultants are behaving in a manner that is untoward (or worse). Typically, they are abiding by the terms and conditions of the agreement — which, like the small print of a wireless phone contract, eventually reveal a menu of additional fees that generally fall into six categories:

1. Adding Reports

Most enterprise reporting consultants offer a fixed — and usually small — number of healthcare reports. However, hospitals are not static entities; they are dynamic and organic organizations that need new reports to answer emerging questions like:

  • What is the impact of recent changes to care management assignments on the re-admission rate?
  • Are patient safety numbers trending higher or lower?
  • How many patients are currently taking multiple medications that might be contra-indicated?
  • What patients with diabetes have missed their most recent health screenings?

What’s more, hospitals often need to look at the same data, but in different ways in order to glean fresh insights. For example, executives may want to drill deeper into:

  • Descriptive analytics to analyze why outcomes are better or worse than expected.
  • Predict analytics to identify patterns that help predict outcomes and reduce adverse events.
  • Prescriptive analytics to monitor and measure various patient populations, so that resources and strategies can be adjusted accordingly.
  • Comparative analytics that combine data sources (e.g. clinical data and claims data) to target problem areas and enhance performance.

Regardless of the configuration or context —and the above are just some common use cases and examples — the fact remains that hospitals incur additional costs each time they request a report that exceeds their fixed allotment.

2. Adding Features

Just as hospitals regularly need new reports, they also need new reporting features. For example, different user groups — such as physicians, frontline clinical managers, organizational leadership, and so on — may want minor or major changes that:

  • Enhance accessibility and ease-of-use.
  • Improve data reliability, accuracy and timeliness.
  • Increase relevance (e.g. focusing on 10 metrics that matter and removing 15 that don’t).
  • Include benchmarks and trends.

Hospitals that incur additional programming costs for each change may be reluctant to request them — which means they will not get as much value from their data as they could and should. Conversely, if they do approve additional costs, then they will pay more than they expected and budgeted for, and as such funds must be pulled from somewhere else.

3. Adding Data Sources

GIGO — or “garbage in, garbage out” — is, unfortunately, alive and well in the world of enterprise healthcare reporting. Frankly, it does not matter how clear or functional reports are, if they are based on flawed or incomplete data sources.

To that end, it is not a question of whether hospitals will need to add new data sources, but when and to what extent. These additional internal and external data sources may include:

  • Clinical data, such as lab test results, EMRs, etc.
  • Medical management data, such as health risk assessments, etc.
  • Insurance data, such as claims, enrollment information, etc.
  • Administrative data, such as billing, discharge information, etc.
  • Public data, such as immunization registries, etc.

Hospitals that avoid adding data sources due to cost barriers will lack a complete picture of their organization — which means they lack the business intelligence they need to make the fastest, smartest and safest decisions possible.

4. Using Ad Hoc Reporting

Ad hoc reporting — and hence the need for ad hoc report writers — has grown significantly in recent years, as hospitals focus on maximizing resources and minimizing cost, while meeting rising patient care goals and quality assurance standards.

In light of this, it is common for clinicians, administrators and other users to make requests that require the services of an ad hoc reports writer(s), such as:

  • Creating data visualizations that are dynamic, instructive and easy-to-communicate.
  • Going beyond simple “out-of-the-box” queries, and generating more sophisticated and complex reports that use elements such as drag-and-drop analytics.
  • Leveraging mobile apps to facilitate up-to-the-moment “anytime, anywhere” insights.
  • Making patient data more secure and/or confidential, in order to comply with prevailing and emerging regulations (e.g. HIPAA, Hitech, etc.).

Even a relatively small change can cost thousands of dollars — let alone larger and more comprehensive changes, which can be cost prohibitive; and therefore, left on the proverbial drawing board vs. executed into reality.

5. Adding Users

If an enterprise reporting system does what it is designed to do, then individuals and teams throughout the organization will quickly see the value — and want to leverage it for their respective information and decision-making purposes.

For example, frontline clinical managers may want to improve staffing efficiency in their units, risk management teams may want to get a clearer picture of resource utilization, executives may want to more deeply understand patient populations for long-term strategic planning purposes, and so on.

But what happens when these individuals and teams are not on the reporting system roster? In such cases, they must be added — which means yet more unexpected costs, and more executives asking why they are obliged to buy services that they believed had already been purchased.

6. Performing Updates

As we have previously highlighted, Healthcare IT (HCIT) professionals are being driven to the brink of exhaustion (they have long ago passed the milestone of frustration). And a key reason for their widespread misery — and major human resource problem — is rooted in enterprise reporting systems.

Specifically, HCIT professionals are burdened with the task of updating complex enterprise reporting systems that they are not readily or completely familiar with — which means they must spend extra time (that they do not have) going back-and-forth with vendors, and often with end users as well.

The only way for hospitals to avoid this is to pay consultants to manage reporting system updates on their behalf. Yes, this alleviates the burden from HCIT professionals — but it comes at a cost that keeps adding up over time.

The Solution: An Inclusive Billing Model

While the problems described above are common and costly, the good news is they are not unsolvable. What hospitals need is to change the paradigm — and that is where an inclusive billing model enters the picture.

As the term suggests, an inclusive billing model covers all consulting services and support per a transparent, single and fixed flat-fee. Without incurring any additional or unexpected costs, hospitals can:

  • Request an unlimited number of reports based on shifting needs and goals.
  • Add report features that enhance access, clarity, relevance, and so on.
  • Add as few or as many data sources as required, including external sources (e.g. PACs, etc.).
  • Take advantage of ad hoc reporting (and the ongoing services of ad hoc report writers).
  • Add new users to the reporting roster.
  • Outsource all reporting system updates, instead of burdening their HCIT teams.

Next Steps

At Polaris, our inclusive billing model gives hospitals much-needed cost certainty, but even more valuable, it removes a deterrent and replaces it with an incentive. In other words, without spending additional money, hospitals get more functionality, value and results from an enterprise reporting system that flexes with their evolving needs — and all without getting “dinged” over and over again.

To learn more about our pioneering inclusive billing model and suite of solutions, contact the Polaris team today.

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