Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Your Future as a Provider: It's All in the Data: Problem: Behavioral Health Providers Lack the Analytics Capability to Extract Data's Value

Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Your Future as a Provider: It's All in the Data: Problem: Behavioral Health Providers Lack the Analytics Capability to Extract Data's Value

Article excerpt

I recently attended the Health Datapalooza in Washington, D.C. The Datapalooza concept represents a government-wide effort (Health, Education, Energy, Transportation, etc.) to unleash the power of data that has been locked away in government archives for years, virtually unused. Think for a moment about the impact of doing that, based on impact of two other examples: the federal government's release of National Weather Service data in the early '70s, and of GPS satellite tracking data in the '90s. Both of those actions spurred the development of multibillion dollar industries and conveniences that we as consumers rely on every day.

Now, imagine how much data is gathered on a daily basis in healthcare, the largest sector of the United States economy and 18% of our gross domestic product. Under the bold leadership of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, our nation's Chief Technology Officer, Todd Park, and our National Coordinator for Health IT, Farzad Mostashari, HHS is beginning to release mountains of anonymized healthcare data to unleash innovation and entrepreneurship in healthcare.

The release of this data has massive implications, because as we know, healthcare is quite likely the most data-opaque industry on the planet. So much so that Steven Brill's extraordinary expose on healthcare costs was surprising to many outside the industry (though not to insiders) and the release of hospital chargemaster information by HHS was big news. And a company like Castlight, which simply allows consumers to compare pricing when choosing healthcare providers, is a true innovator.

Due to lack of data transparency about costs and outcomes, healthcare is a perfect example of an industry where information asymmetry is rampant. By asymmetry, I mean circumstances where one party has better information than another, and so is in a position to take advantage of the lacking party.

Information asymmetry frequently exists between payors and providers and between providers and patients. And, it frequently gets worse as you move down the healthcare food chain. For example, payors have comprehensive cost data on costs and may well have rudimentary provider performance metrics, while providers generally have such cost or performance data only within their own systems (no competitive data). while patients who must make "informed" decisions have virtually no data of any kind at all. Addressing this huge imbalance in the availability of decision-making information is one reason the HHS release of healthcare data is so important. Such data can begin to level the playing field shared by payors and providers while helping patients to make truly informed choices.

Everyone in healthcare already collects a lot of data, and most of it sits unused in EHRs that have been optimized to store clinical records and bill. In a value-based healthcare system, organizations that invest in leveraging their data assets, such as Kaiser Permanente, Intermountain, and others, will find that they have a key strategic advantage in an asymmetric world. They have the tools both to manage populations effectively, and also to manage corresponding risk. To paraphrase one of the speakers at Datapalooza: healthcare companies are becoming data companies, but they don't realize it.

Implications for behavioral health

One would think that behavioral health is well-positioned in this new value-based healthcare era. …

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