And the winner is.....??

Well, it's finally upon us:  It's the eve of the US Presidential Election, and by end of day tomorrow we will know whether The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010 will progress according to the Obama Administration's detailed playbook, or whether we can expect "Obamacare" to be repealed and dismantled as promised by the Republican Party.

After months of incessant TV ads, sound-bite-driven debates and blatantly misleading statements that have created a new mini-industry of fact-checkers, the election remains too close to call.  While it's been a fascinating spectacle over these past few months, it's also been painful to see the emphasis on trying to polarize issues to create distance between both parties policies, rather than actually debating how to address the challenges.  

Health-care reform has been the poster child for this kind of political maneuvering, in which sound bites monopolize the dialogue and little if any clarity has been brought to where the parties differ on how to bend the costs curve in health care. Many of us are now eager to just move on and, as time is of the essence, if there is a change in administration we want to know the specifics of the revised approach as soon as possible.

With all that said, and I know I'll probably regret this, I'm going to make a prediction.  I'll bet that whatever the outcome of this election, if we look at what needs to be done to improve health care, the following analytic imperatives will still be as relevant by the end of the year as they are now.

The five imperatives that won't change are:

  1. Simplify data integration across the extended enterprise.
    Data is the essential lifeblood that enables deeper business insights and the foundation on which to begin to design and build all subsequent strategies.
  2. Understand and manage financial risks and incentives.
    As incentives change in the health-care industry, so will behavior. The move from pay-for-volume to pay-for-value will require organizations to both predict and measure the value they deliver.
  3. Proactively improve care quality and outcomes.
    Tracking what happened in the past is no longer good enough. We now need to predict quality issues before they occur so that we can intervene early and effectively.
  4. Drive greater efficiency of care delivery.
    Inappropriate levels of variation in health care account for up to 40 percent of all health-care costs. Avoidable waste needs to be tracked rigorously if it is to be reduced.
  5. Engage patients as unique individuals.
    Patient-centered health care means just that – adapting health care to fit the patient’s needs and lifestyle rather than expecting the patient to adapt to the provider’s needs.

Do you agree?

We may not know whether these specific predictions are correct for another month or so, but my sense is that they are essential elements to any rational health-care system, whether in the US or in any other first-world country.  

Data volumes don't get smaller, fee-for-service won't suddenly be the next best thing, and understanding and engaging patients in their own health care isn't a passing fad.

Analytics are here to stay. In the coming years, it won't be good enough to focus on reporting what's already happened. Rather, the health-care system of the future will focus on early intervention through the proactive use of data for prediction and optimization.


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    Welcome to the SAS Health and Life Sciences blog. We explore how the health care ecosystem – providers, payers, pharmaceutical firms, regulators and consumers – can collaboratively use information and analytics to transform health quality, cost and outcomes.
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