A well-defined benchmark in healthcare quality improvement is the Triple Aim—to improve the patient experience and health of populations while also reducing the cost of healthcare, as defined by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Achieving the three-part goal, however, has been difficult for most healthcare organizations.
Recent case studies have found that health systems that have adopted a systematic approach to the use of data and analytics to guide their improvement initiatives have documented major improvements in quality, cost and efficiency. In 2017, nearly three dozen organizations ranging in size from small community hospitals to some of the nation’s largest integrated delivery systems documented 125 improvements in quality, cost and efficiency using technology and improvement processes from Health Catalyst, a Salt Lake City-based data and analytics company.
According to Health Catalyst, 2017 improvements, substantiated in 48 case studies, represent a 69 percent year-over-year increase in documented improvement outcomes. Of the 125 outcomes that the company documented from three dozen healthcare organizations:
- 42 percent included improvement in clinical outcomes such as reduced mortality, complication rates, readmissions, infections, and length of stay.
- 18 percent included improvement in financial outcomes such as decreased variable cost, decreased total cost, increased revenue, and improved margin, as well as decreased denials, write-offs, and accounts receivable (A/R) days.
- 35 percent included operational improvements such as improved workflow, reduction of unwarranted variation, improved patient access and decreased wait times for service.
The vast majority of the improvements documented by the hospitals and health systems analyzed were achieved in highly complex organizations with multiple hospitals and outpatient facilities, including several accountable care organizations (ACOs) responsible for the care of millions of patients.
What’s more, 31 percent of the improvement projects involved workflow changes across multiple care locations, many of them affecting the entire care continuum for a patient population. Affected sites of care included the inpatient setting (38 percent of the total); the Emergency Department (31 percent); outpatient settings such as clinics (22 percent), peri-operative (20 percent); and the performance of risk-based payer-provider arrangements such as ACOs (10 percent).
“Improvements involving changes in practice across the continuum are extremely difficult to accomplish, so the scale of these improvements is incredibly impressive. Many health systems are still trying to focus on improvement in just one hospital,” Brent James, M.D., a strategic advisor to Health Catalyst, and the former chief quality officer of Intermountain Healthcare, said in a statement.
In addition to improvements in clinical, financial and operational outcomes, 42 percent of the documented total included improvements in analytics efficiency such as shortened time-to-value, time savings in producing and accessing information, and increased adoption of analytics by the organization.