Pandemic highlights need for better use of data among providers

The coronavirus pandemic has presented a host of challenges for health care providers—but now that a vaccine has rolled out and providers prepare for a new normal after the pandemic, there are opportunities as well.

One way to capitalize on these opportunities is through enhanced use of data analytics, which hospitals can utilize to manage their capacity and talent more effectively.

As with other industries, health care providers have had to transform themselves technologically in a way that was hard to envision pre-pandemic. Whether it’s dealing with a distributed workforce, serving patients remotely or managing their business more efficiently, health care providers are increasingly trying to do more with less—also known as capacity management.

Consider the widespread delays in non-emergency services: As the pandemic raged, hospitals—often under orders from state officials—put off many of these procedures in order to make room for COVID-19 patients.

But just because a pandemic raged didn’t mean that people stopped having bad knees or broken hips that needed replacing. If anything, the demand for these elective procedures has increased. Now, with pent-up demand for these services, how health care providers handle an influx of patients will likely dictate their success—or failure.

Another emerging health care issue is talent management: Because demand will be difficult to predict, it’s critical to ensure that a health care provider’s talent pipeline is prepared. As an industry, health care has yet to recover from the employment losses brought on by the pandemic. Thus, we expect a need for optimizing the talent in this industry, especially in regard to nurses and other frontline employees.

Employment in health care - chart

Preparing for these changes is where enhanced data management comes in. RSM has identified four areas where data analytics can be used to drive an organization forward:

  • Capacity management: Many organizations have started to conduct exercises to better evaluate their own organization. For example, the average length of stay, known as throughput, is up 11% from this time last year. The need to better manage this measure of patient care will be critical as the vaccine rolls out and as providers look to be better stewards of their limited resources.
  • Scheduling talent: We expect a return to historical patient volumes this year and into the next, though no one can predict exactly when. Data analytics can be a way to predict how much this demand will stretch a staff. Managing these resources effectively will be another crucial measure of success in the new normal.
  • Attracting the right talent: Simply acquiring talent is hard enough, but that challenge is compounded by the need to get the right employee on board at the right time. That’s where the use of data analytics can help providers monitor the effectiveness of strategies related to bringing staff members on board and training them.
  • Improving your culture: Organizations have long used surveys to measure employee satisfaction, but with the right approach, analytics can help providers gain a more nuanced understanding of their workforce and drive further improvements.

The takeaway

The coronavirus has forced significant changes upon health care providers. As the vaccine is distributed and providers prepare for life after the pandemic, how they manage this new normal via the use of analytics will be critical to their success.

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This article was written by Richard Kes and originally appeared on Mar 07, 2021.
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