Where Will We See Analytics in Ambulatory Medicine?

Posted on April 9, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As I prepare to head to the mecca of healthcare IT conferences, I’m getting inundated with pitches. Much like last year, analytics is still a really popular topic. It seems like every healthcare IT vendor has some analytics offering. Many abuse the term analytics (which is fine by me) and that term has come to mean analyzing your health data in order to provide value.

As I think about analytics, I wonder how much of it will apply to the small physician practice. I should do this survey, but I bet if I asked 5 physicians working in small group or solo practices about their analytics strategy they’d all give me blank stares. Small physician practices don’t have an analytics strategy. They’re not looking for new ways to leverage analytics to improve their practice. That’s not how a small practice thinks.

So, does analytics have a place in small ambulatory medicine?

The short answer is that it absolutely does. However, I think that it will be delivered in two forms: packaged or purchased by the borg.

In the packaged approach, analytics will be part of a small practice’s EHR system. Much like a doctor doesn’t have a mobile EHR strategy (it just comes with the EHR), they won’t have an analytics strategy either. They’ll just take the analytics solutions that come with the EHR.

In some ways, the reporting capabilities in an EHR have been doing this forever. However, very few organizations have been able to use these reports effectively. The next trend in EHR analytics will be to push the data to the user when and where they need it as opposed to having to pull a report. Plus, the EHR analytics will start trying to provide some insights into the reports as opposed to just displaying raw data.

One key for ambulatory EHR vendors is that they won’t likely be able to build all the EHR analytics functions that a doctor will want and need. This is why it’s so important that EHR vendors embrace the open API approach to working with outside companies. Many of these third party software companies will provide EHR analytics on top of the EHR software.

In the purchased by the borg scenario, the small practice will get purchased by the borg (You know…the major hospital system in the area). This is happening all over the place. In fact, many small practices cite the reason for selling out to the local hospital is that they don’t think they’ll be able to keep up with the technology requirements. One of those major requirements will be around analytics. We’ll see how far it goes, but I think many small practices are scared they won’t be able to keep up.

Ok, there’s one other scenario as well. The local hospital system or possibly even a local ACO will purchase a package of analytics software (ie. purchased by the bog) and then you’ll tap into them in order to get the benefits of a healthcare analytics solution. We see this already starting to happen. I’ve heard mixed results from around the country. No doctor really likes this situation since it ties them so deeply with the local hospital, but they usually can’t think of a better option.

That’s my take on how analytics will make its way to ambulatory practices. Of course, most large hospital systems also own a large number of ambulatory practices as well. So, some of the analytics will trickle down to ambulatory in those systems as well. I just wonder how much value ambulatory doctors will get from the hospital analytics vendors that are chosen. I can already hear the ambulatory doctors complaining about the analytics reports that don’t work for them because they’re so hospital focused.

Where are you seeing analytics in the ambulatory setting?