Analytics Connects the Dots — and Data — to Improve Healthcare Supply Chain Performance

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Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Brad Stillwell, senior director of product strategy at Birst, an Infor company

Data analytics is transforming healthcare, informing every decision from doctors’ diagnoses to long-term patient risk management. While the spotlight is, deservedly, on data-driven transformation within the four walls of healthcare facilities, analytics also has the power to improve the performance of supply chains and entire healthcare ecosystems to deliver a significant competitive advantage.

The Evolution of Healthcare Supply Chains

Hospitals are a classic representation of the healthcare supply chain: every physical item within the building and the many services – such as laundry or janitorial tasks – are sourced from external suppliers. Because these relationships are contractual, they are often difficult to finalize and change, which means the financial performance of a hospital’s supply chain is determined by its overall efficiency and cost-effective sourcing.

On the other hand, healthcare ecosystems represent an information supply chain based on data-sharing that is opportunistic, fluid and can occur between myriad participants. The financial performance of an ecosystem participant is determined by its ability to manage its information supply chain, which, in turn, requires strong abilities to connect with and leverage data from others.

Leveraging Data Analytics to Enhance Healthcare Connectivity

Leading healthcare organizations are already reaping the benefits of data-enabled ecosystem connectivity. Connecting disparate data systems is a key task, which can now be accomplished quickly and flexibly with analytics solutions specifically designed with robust data integration capabilities.

For example, a provider of clinical solutions for treating cancer used an enterprise analytics and data integration platform to recently launch a new electromagnetic radiation (EMR) solution with a critical competitive advantage: comprehensive cancer care analytics. Data from the EMR system is automatically combined with clinical, financial, administrative and operational data from other systems and organizations across the cancer care cycle, helping hospitals to better understand operational performance, quality management and population health.

By choosing an external analytics platform instead of scarce internal development resources, the EMR provider quickly built an information supply chain that got it to market first with cancer care-cycle analytics. This innovative differentiator was created in just 90 days. The new EMR solution was quickly deployed into 20 hospitals, and on track to reach 100 within its first year.

How Healthcare Providers Can Connect the Dots

For healthcare providers, the traditional supply chain is already benefiting from new, ecosystem-enabled optimization analytics.

For example, a provider of services — which identify, implement and sustain best-practice changes to product selection and clinical practice variances — is fueling discovery with data culled from a consortium of health systems around the country. With a focus on value-based medicine, not cost-based, the company develops supply chain solutions that encompass total cost, selection and waste, instead of price alone. In this way, the service provider develops best-practice recommendations for its customers that raise the quality of care while lowering overall costs.

By integrating and analyzing vast amounts of data from hundreds of systems across the consortium, the company recently helped a customer group of three hospital systems reduce its inventory waste by 50 percent in just 30 days. That figure translates into an impressive $630,000 in hard-dollar cost savings and a per-bed average savings of $6,000.

The Path Toward Competitive Advantage

Both of the organizations profiled above could have developed some level of analogous functionality using internal IT resources. Or could they? In a predictive article published in 2013 in Harvard Business Review, author Thomas H. Davenport explains:

Change comes fast to every part of a business’s world. New players emerge, competitive positions shift, novel technologies must be mastered, and talent gravitates toward the most exciting new work. Managers will see all these things in the coming months and years. The ones who respond most effectively will be those who have connected the dots and recognized that competing on analytics is being rethought on a large scale. Indeed, the first companies to perceive the general direction of change — those with a sneak peek at Analytics 3.0 — will be best positioned to drive that change.

Davenport defines Analytics 3.0 as “a new resolve to apply powerful data-gathering and analysis methods not just to a company’s operations but also to its offerings – to embed data smartness into the products and services customers buy.”

Today, the principles and benefits of Analytics 3.0 are abundantly clear in the healthcare industry. By connecting data and connecting the “dots,” organizations are extracting data-driven insight from healthcare ecosystems in ways unimaginable even five years ago. By building these offerings with powerful enterprise analytics and data integration platforms, they can do so without depending on strapped development resources in their own organizations.

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