Standardizing the definition of quality measures is hard enough when you have the right people. Unfortunately, it is too often the case that hospitals are not armed with the right people and skills sets to address this costly, complicated issue.
Over the past 2 years, we’ve heard a lot about the shortage of primary care physicians in this country, mostly due to the public debate about how to reform healthcare. What we haven’t heard nearly enough about is the even larger shortage of clinical analysts and informaticists. I would argue that right now, hospitals and healthcare organizations need this skill set more than almost anything else. Go to any large hospitals’ website and I’d be willing to bet there is a job posting related to these roles. Here’s why.
How many times has your healthcare IT or data related projects failed because of these two reasons (that I hear almost once a week)?
- [IT Perspective] – “the users can’t tell us how they want to use the system, how they want to see the data, what they need out of their clinical applications…they don’t know how to ask the right questions!”
- [Clinical Perspective] – “our people in IT don’t know the clinical world at all. Things aren’t as cut and dry as they try and make it. It’s not 0 or 1, or Yes or No – it’s more complicated than that. I wish they could just live a day in my life and see how I operate, things would be so much easier!”
And there you have it. The conundrum that almost every hospital deals with – an inefficient, ineffective relationship between their clinical users and supporting IT department/clinical decision support (CDS). I wrote previously about the difficulties IT Projects at hospitals face when the clinical and technical stakeholders don’t even know each other. “Dr. meet IT; IT meet Dr.” What I haven’t touched on, though, is the importance of what I like to call the “translators” that every hospital needs. These folks are the Clinical Systems Analysts, Clinical Decision Support Analysts, and Healthcare Informaticists who have a clinical education and real world experience with workflows and processes, but also have a strong understanding of information technology, clinical applications, and most importantly, the data. These resources are invaluable to institutions that finally understand this fundamental principle: the fastest, easiest way to improving patient outcomes and reducing the cost of delivering care is understanding ways to identify best practices and underperformers within your organization through the use of advanced analytics. How do you do that? You have someone who understands the data and can help directors and managers or clinical units/care settings understand where there are opportunities for improvement. It is essential these people “talk the clinical talk” when discussing data trends with nurses and clinicians; and “talk the IT talk” when relaying requirements and system improvements to the IT and CDS teams.
Without resources who can “straddle the fence” that sits between clinical users and CDS staff members, you’ll continue to have a disconnect between the people collecting the data and those trying to understand and report it. It’s time to find people who can play in both worlds. It’s not rocket science…even if calculating CMS Core Measures is.