Data as a concept can be a little mysterious for people who don’t use it regularly. We all know about Big Data. How it’s here whether we like it or not, and how it’s made our YouTube ads a whole lot more specific than they used to be.
But in the hospital setting, data saves lives. In this article, we look at how people with hospital administrator careers are using data to change the way hospitals are run.
What is Data-Driven Decision Making?
Data-driven decision-making isn’t about having algorithms take the helm at your hospital. It’s more about speeding up a process that was already in place. Good administrators have always led by learning. With data, it’s simply easier to understand what has been learned.
The numbers paint a much clearer picture than intuition ever could. You might suspect, for example, that last year your cardiovascular services lagged behind their potential. A look at the numbers will tell you how much they lagged, and maybe even help answer the question of why. It’s not perfect. Certainly, it isn’t magic. But for administrators that want to do their job as well as they can, it is transformative.
Understanding the Hospital
From a strictly administrative perspective, data can make it easier to understand, and therefore effectively run the hospital. Here’s a situation that many hospitals are currently facing: high turnover rates. Skeleton crews. Five people doing the work of ten.
You’ve heard about this, of course. Nursing shortages. The great resignation as some call it. The hospital administrator might not be responsible for solving this crisis, but they will need to know how to work with it.
When you can only do so much, how do you direct your resources? Data can help shine a light on where the greatest sources of need are. Using that information, administrators can make the most of what they have, helping to guarantee a higher impact.
This was particularly impactful during the height of the pandemic. There weren’t nearly enough hospital beds. Ventilators? PPE? Hand sanitizer, for goodness sake! Healthcare systems just didn’t have these things, at least not in a serviceable quantity.
It took a tremendous level of ingenuity to keep things running the way they needed to. And therein lies the magic of data. The numbers couldn’t magically summon more resources, but they could help administrators decide how to use them.
Of course, data doesn’t need a pandemic to be useful. Administrators can also use the numbers for smaller things. How much ink and toner should we order? What do our utility bills look like relative to historical numbers? Nuts and bolts stuff that, while not as urgent or desperate as the pandemic felt, are critical to keeping the hospital effective.
Understanding the Community
Hospitals may mostly look the same from the outside, but to be truly effective they need to cultivate the care they provide specifically to the needs of the community. So many variables can crop up that create sweeping health impacts for most or all people living in a geographical area.
Maybe there is a paper mill that has negatively impacted the quality of drinking water. Or lead pipes that shed harmful materials. A factory polluting the air, etc.
It doesn’t even need to be a scandalous issue. Some communities struggle more with diabetes or obesity. Others have exorbitant rates of vaccine hesitancy. Then there is the rural plight. Hospitals that service enormous geographical locations.
What percent of people are participating in preventative care? Is anything at all being done to alleviate the transportation-induced struggle of healthcare?
In other words, there are a million questions that data can answer. Using the numbers, an astute administrator can help shape a hospital into exactly what the community needs it to be.
Forecasting the Future
Data is good but it isn’t magic. Analytic-produced forecasting is kind of like the weather report. Good enough to make plans by but also highly subject to change. Nevertheless, looking back into the past helps administrators see patterns that can directly influence their behavior in the future.
Using hospital records, they can determine what services need the most attention. Where they should channel their efforts to deliver the highest possible level of care.
Contextualizing the Past
Finally, data is a great way to perform a highly nuanced post-mortem on the previous year. What was done well? What wasn’t? The numbers don’t lie. Administrators can help identify issues within the hospital by holding the microscope up to the past.
In fact, this is data’s cleanest and most dependable application. Using it to make decisions for the future is fine — good even — but it will always be done under a cloud of uncertainty. When it comes to reviewing the past, the skies are clear. You see everything, and you learn from it.
With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.