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Healthcare data – can you dig it?

I started my career building training systems for the US Navy.  Since then I have worked in Aviation, Finance, Logistics, Education, Telecommunications and Healthcare.  I can honestly say the healthcare industry is the thriftiest group of people from this list.

Healthcare is a market with so much money pouring through, this seems like it cannot be true.  Alas, the magnitude of players makes the number large, but on a transaction level, most are quite tiny.   This creates a huge opportunity.

Each one of these transactions creates a wealth of information that is perfect for mining.  Mining this data can reveal trends, patterns, and specific details that enable change, process improvement, lower costs, higher performance, and even breakthroughs in treatments.

According to a recent study, the US healthcare system has abysmal scores on chronic care management and coordinated care.  The tools exist to use the data already collected to improve this overnight.

Companies in the US have been using Client Relationship Management (CRM) tools for several decades.  These are normally installed for the marketing groups to create and manage campaigns and for the sales team to track and monitor steps to find, process, and win business.  Chronic disease management follows a comparable process:

  1. Identify the target audience.   Use the data already collected to find your patients who have diabetes, heart failure, obesity, etc.
  2. Reach out to your audience.  Get in touch with these patients.  Build a step by step process that motivates them to change their habits.  Give them incentives to investigate the program you are offering.
  3. Create a unique campaign.  In marketing, this kind of outreach is known as a campaign.  In healthcare, it is called a protocol.  In both, it is a series of steps that should be followed to improve the outcome.  Off the shelf tools like Dynamics CRM are designed to create and manage campaigns.   Change the labels and use this.
  4. Monitor the results.  Setup the tools to notify the case manager when a patient goes dark.  Build alerts that look for changes in patterns and notify the case manager.  Automate the outreach and escalation so the software does all the hard work, freeing the case workers for more valuable face time.
  5. Improve the outcomes.  A good CRM campaign results in more business.  A good healthcare campaign results in improved outcomes.  The organization is sitting on terabytes of data that can quickly show the before and after results.
  6. Repeat the process.  I believe this is where the system breaks down.  There are countless examples where organizations have done steps 1-5 but quit because of no funding, overcome by events, Fed fatigue, or apathy.  This too, could be minimized with better reports.

Everyone likes to receive a good report card.  After following steps 1-5, watch the numbers.  In order to do this, reporting systems need to exist.  Be sure to include reporting as part of the initial requirements.  Without it, the progress stagnates.

The same techniques can be used to coordinate care.  Instead of waiting for patients to become chronic, repeat step 1 above to identify target populations, reach out to them, and get them healthy before their healthcare becomes ongoing and expensive.

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