Health Care Organizations Face Data, Analytics Challenges

The eHI survey indicated that many health care organizations have not developed an effective strategic plan for analytics.

health it and data analytics

While the digitization of health care has resulted in tremendous new opportunities for using data to improve patient care and manage the health of populations, a study by the eHealth Initiative (eHI) and the College of Health Information Management Executives (CHIME) indicated analytic capabilities and practices vary significantly across health care organizations.

The annual survey of CIOs and executives revealed analytics are still in early stages of maturity, and simultaneously health care organizations are relying upon increasingly diverse types and sources of electronic data for analytics.

Interoperability has been a longstanding challenge to health IT, and it appears analytics is no exception, with 72 percent of organizations using more than 10 electronic interfaces to collect data.

The survey also shows that many health care organizations have not developed an effective strategic plan for analytics.

Over the past year, a lack of funding and return-on-investment has quickly emerged as a barrier to more widespread implementation of analytics.

"CIOs have increasingly significant workloads at a time when their staff is being reduced, their investments are being cut and expectations for the value of HIT solutions are increasing. The promise of health IT can only be achieved if we’re focused on transformational efforts," Russell P. Branzell, president and CEO of CHIME, said in a statement.

Staffing also remains a significant challenge, with 79 percent of organizations lacking sufficient trained staff to collect, process and analyze data, according to the report.

In addition, new barriers to analytics are emerging beyond staffing, interoperability and cost, though consumer engagement is a growing business area.

As the report emphasized, while organizations recognize the importance of data and analytics, many have not committed to its investment or use.

"Organizations pull health data from a variety of sources to inform decisions," Jennifer Covich Bordenick, CEO of eHI, said in a statement. "As demands for information increase from patients and providers, analytic models become more complex, and a host of new challenges have evolved that organizations must navigate."

Although 96 percent of survey participants said they use analytics, just one-fifth (20 percent) report that analytic operations are regularly integrated and coordinated at an institutional level.

Moreover, only 42 percent have implemented a plan that can scale and adapt to the increasing data demands, the report revealed.

The eHI has also developed an issue brief, which is available online and summarizes the key findings from the 2014 survey. A Webinar is also available for download that features a discussion with industry experts.