Data on health care quality is achieving new prominence. The movement to create Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), the imminent advent of health exchanges, and the explosion of new patients projected to enter the market are just several of the reasons why data will have an inescapable presence and indispensable value in the evolving health care marketplace.

Even in its early days, health care reform has already begun to redefine the basic relationship among providers, payors and patients. With so much contingent on satisfaction and quality outcomes, providers must embrace the role that data can play in producing new insights around delivering quality, developing personal engagement and building greater patient loyalty.

The accountable care environment is rich with possibilities to collect, organize and analyze data to drive better patient outcomes. However, many health care organizations that have recently entered or are planning to join ACOs lack experience in maximizing analytics to support the ACO’s ultimate goals of improving health outcomes and empowering patients to be more involved in their own care. Data is often unrecorded, unshared or underutilized. The good news is that ACOs, like many components of the Affordable Care Act, are still in a nascent stage, so organizations still have time to get the formula right.

Health care organizations must adopt a holistic, 360-degree view of their existing analytics systems and procedures to achieve a clinically integrated care environment. There are three actions ACOs can take to maximize the efficacy of their analytics processes for improved outcomes and performance.

1) Deliver the data to the right audience for enhanced patient care. In an ACO, the caregivers — physicians, nurses, physician assistants — know the patient best, so the outcomes of analytics must be relevant to them. It is vital to build the right infrastructure so that caregivers are armed with the real-time information they need to provide quality at the point of the encounter. Caregivers’ use of analytics can be thought of in the same way stock brokers make key buy and sell decisions. Obtaining key information at strategic decision points can determine the size of the gain or loss; in health care, timely data derived from analytics can influence a caregiver’s treatment path. This underscores the idea of creating an environment where the right person can deliver the right care at the right time — a winning formula for any ACO.

2) Integrate analytics across the entire ACO for improved collaboration. Rather than build analytics around a specific function or department, they should be seamlessly integrated and utilized throughout the organization. Making analytics an omnipresent, consistent and easily accessible facet of ACOs can improve patient care by facilitating cohesive collaboration and sharing vital information among caregivers. Many patients have complex conditions with comorbidities that require a range of caregivers to cooperate, sometimes at a moment’s notice. Take for example a 65 year old male patient admitted to the hospital for dialysis secondary to renal failure, likely secondary to a combination of hypertension and diabetes, who also has congestive heart failure, hypothyroidism and depression. Comprehensive treatment would require input from individuals across the nephrology, cardiology, endocrinology and psychiatry departments. Analytics can empower caregivers throughout the hospital by providing a 360-degree view of the patient’s condition and needs, which can improve their collective patient care.

3) Incorporate unstructured data for advanced perspective. Unstructured data — including insights from social media and clinical journals or medical data housed in the Library of Congress — should be valued at a level equal to structured data (e.g., electronic health records). While structured data may be easier for providers to compile and track, creating the proper infrastructure to collect and analyze unstructured data can allow ACOs to glean a more comprehensive view of the collective data landscape.

Prioritizing these three areas can help ACOs achieve the enormous value analytics can provide in our patient-centered health care ecosystem. In addition to implementing solid analytics processes, successful ACOs are already focusing on risk stratification, prevention and management of care transitions to round out their value proposition to patients. All of these components are crucial to delivering clinically integrated care and promoting an environment that considers all kinds of data across the entire organization. By taking steps to adopt a holistic, 360-degree patient view with key analytics, ACOs should be able to find measurable success even faster.

Mark Vreeland and Todd Schack are executive directors in the Healthcare Advisory Services unit of Ernst & Young LLP. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ernst & Young.

This article was originally published by Health Data Management. Used with permission.

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