Make sure your health organization has enough power when you “Flip the Switch”!

My favorite health futurist and commentator, Ian Morrison, offers another provocative essay in this week’s online edition of Hospitals and Health Networks. In “Flip the Switch” he explores two prominent themes in the healthcare industry, both being advanced by US health reform legislation. The first theme is that more people will be covered by health insurance, but at lower reimbursement. The second theme is that the game is changing from a world of pay for procedures to an environment of pay for outcomes. Mr. Morrison goes on to explain that the challenge for health industry leaders is learning to manage on two curves. The first is their base business or the business they already know how to run on a daily basis. The second is a new business, or a new way of doing business, that is radically different from the first. He says successful organizations will be those whose leaders figure out how to integrate for accountable care, make care cheaper, make care better, and focus on outcomes. He also recommends a strategy of innovating on the side with pilots and experiments and learning from those so you’ll be ready to “flip the switch” when the time comes to focus your entire enterprise on the new game.

As I read Ian’s essay and reflected on a recent hospital visit I made, it dawned on me that something was missing. When I sat down last week with the CIO of a 300 bed community hospital, I had asked what she and other managers were most in need of to better run their business. “BI” (business intelligence), the CIO answered. She said the organization was awash in data but the challenge was making sense of it. What she and other managers needed was a real-time dashboard to their financial and clinical systems. That, she said, was the most pressing operational issue right now.

imageI asked the CIO if her hospital was using Microsoft SharePoint. I especially wanted to know if they had done any work with the new 2010 edition of SharePoint with its powerful but simple integration of “Performance Point” data analytics technology. Many of our healthcare customers around the world have implemented remarkable business and clinical intelligence solutions built on Microsoft SharePoint and SQL Server. And, since many of these imageorganizations just like the one I was visiting had enterprise agreements with Microsoft, they already owned most of what was needed to get the ball rolling. For those wanting even deeper integration of the data silos that are so common in healthcare organizations today, I typically recommend Microsoft Amalga and especially the new health quality module that has been engineered to help hospitals report on common key performance and quality indicators required by regulatory agencies and licensing boards.

When I think more deeply about what Mr. Morrison is recommending (integrate for accountable care, make care cheaper, make care better, and focus on outcomes) it is evident that hospital managers can’t do any of this if they can’t measure what they are doing now. Information is power. So, before you flip the switch, you had better be certain the power is turned on.

Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft