The 3 A’s of Meaningful Operational Reports: Available, Accessible and Actionable

Meaningful Operational Reports

Mark Twain once said that the difference between the right word and the almost right word “’tis the difference between lightening and the lightening bug.” Well, if Mr. Twain was a 21st century Medical Director instead of a 19th century writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher and lecturer (plus legend has it that he loved cats), in making his point he might have swapped lightening and lightening bugs for a different tandem: meaningful operational reports and misleading hospital reports. Let’s start with the latter.

Misleading hospital reports look and seem functional. They may even have tables and charts, and important headings. They may also be large and heavy, and spend a lot of time coming out of the printer. However, they lack three fundamental elements — namely available, accessible and actionable, that would render them into the meaningful operational reports that Medical Directors need:

  • Available: Operational reports need to be available on-demand to suit specific information requirements. Otherwise, Medical Directors must manually create them, which is tedious and time consuming — typically taking several days each month.
  • Accessible: Operational should be structured in a way that enables Medical Directors to quickly drill down and access the specific insights they need, when they need it.
  • Actionable: Reports should support strategic actions and decisions that are based on reliable data — not on anecdotal evidence.

Case Study

The following hypothetical case study illustrates what happens when operational reports are available, accessible and actionable — and therefore meaningful instead of misleading:

A Medical Director is questioned by a physician about the high number of echocardiograms ordered by one of her hospitalists. The inquiry did not take the Medical Director by surprise, because there was a lot of anecdotal evidence (a.k.a. gossip) floating around that claimed the hospitalist did indeed order an excessive number of echocardiograms. However, rather than speculating on what might be the case — and likely coming to the wrong conclusion — the Medical Director did the following:

  • Easily and quickly opened a pre-configured report that listed all hospitalists, the number of orders they each placed in a month, the number of patients they cared for, and the rate of orders per patient (available).
  • Immediately drilled down to see the types of orders (consult, CT Scan, MRI, Echo & PT), the number of orders for each type, the number of patients for each type, and rate of orders, and the patient detail for each type (accessible).
  • Used the information to conclude that the hospitalist in question had a lower rate of echocardiogram orders per patient than his peers! And while it was true that his order count was higher than normal last month, this was due to a higher volume of admissions. In light of this, the Medical Director clearly and convincingly responded to the inquiring physician with hard data instead of anecdotal evidence (actionable).

As this case study illustrates, the fact that the operational reports were available, accessible and actionable is what made them meaningful instead of misleading. And when it comes to maintaining high standards of patient care while controlling costs, the difference between those two is enormous. You might even say that ‘tis the difference between lightening and the lightening bug (it sounds better if you’re wearing a white hat and smoking a cigar!).

Learn More

At Polaris, we help hospitals access and exploit operational reports that capture reliable and strategic business intelligence — instead of speculative best guesses or possibly spurious anecdotal evidence.

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

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