Lessons from MacGyver: Bent Paper Clips and Chocolate Do Not Solve Healthcare Reporting Problems

Let us start with a blast from the past. Readers of a certain vintage might recall the MacGyver TV show that aired in the 1980s — a.k.a. that glorious decade renowned (or perhaps notorious) for over-the-top, larger-than-life, extreme suspension-of-disbelief entertainment.

What made MacGyver so memorable then and now — there is a new version currently airing —was that, week after week, he would use ordinary items in ingenious ways to escape certain doom and save the day. After all, who needs futuristic James Bond or Mission: Impossible gear when you can short out a missile using a bent paper clip, or plug a sulfuric acid leak with chocolate?

Now, shining a spotlight on MacGyver is not just an opportunity to take a sentimental journey down memory lane. It is to point out — with jarring, blatant, cheesy, in-your-face 1980’s-style bigness — that ordinary mortals need legitimate tools to achieve their professional objectives. Unless one is MacGyver, bent paper clips and chocolate do not get the job done.

Ordinary mortals need legitimate tools to achieve their professional objectives.

Of course, we all know this. Yet despite this awareness, in a sense this is what many healthcare professionals are expected to achieve with when they are repeatedly told to “use the tools in their environment” to get the reports they and their colleagues need. Why? Because in their current state, the tools in question are not capable of delivering clear, accurate, contextualized and accurate reports.

As a result, healthcare professionals are forced to do the best they can to transform raw data into reliable answers. To say this is a tall order is an understatement. With all due respect, even MacGyver would struggle to meet this unrealistic demand, even if he called the A-Team and Magnum P.I. for help!

The key to solving this problem is for hospitals to take a step back (kind of like a commercial break), and re-engineer their reporting function so that it meets all seven of these requirements:

  1. Automated: Where feasible and sensible, repeated requirements should be replaced by automated processes that are driven by customized (and changeable) workflow rules.
  2. Multiple Data Streams: The pool of information that feeds various reports should be populated by all required data streams, including those that originate from external sources (e.g. ACOs).
  3. Relevant: End users should be able to quickly generate reports that are relevant to their role. For example, while a VP of Population Health and VP of Ambulatory Services may work very closely together and interact throughout the day, they have distinctly different mandates — and therefore need different information (or in some situations, the same underlying information analyzed and displayed differently).
  4. Accessible: Reports should not just be easy to generate, but they should also be easy to find once they are in the system. Even MacGyver would have a tough time hunting down a specific report across a massive hospital information landscape.
  5. Shareable: Sharing reports should be as simple and painless as a few mouse clicks (or taps for those using tablets).
  6. Standardized: Reports should be standardized for compliance, record keeping and audit trail purposes.
  7. Speed to Value: Forcing end users to wait…and wait…and wait…for the reports they desperately need not only contributes to flawed decisions, but it is a recipe for burnout and disengagement.

Next Steps

At Polaris, we have the expertise, insight and tools that enable hospitals to re-engineer their reporting function so that it ticks all seven of the boxes noted above: automated, multiple data streams, relevant, accessible, shareable, standardized, and speed to value.

MacGyver would certainly approve of solutions, technologies and approach. And he will, once he finishes making a powerful welding tool with a car antenna, jumper cables and a battery. Child’s play!

To learn more, contact the Polaris team today.

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