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Pitfalls of Analytical Product Development and How to Escape Them

Data Analytics

Our health care analysts build data-driven products (dashboards, reports, etc.), and they think through all of the technical implementation steps required to make these products successful. The next step determines the success of the product: pinpointing and avoiding the potential pitfalls that can undermine its usefulness. These pitfalls include:

  • Failure to understand what we really mean by "business intelligence"
  • Poor understanding of the users of our product and their needs
  • Poor data management

Often data sources look like a dangerous cocktail of social determinants of health coupled with genetic, environmental and clinical data with other information thrown in. Finding a meaningful way to manage these data and capitalize on the value of the information can be challenging.

Let’s look at the end user of our analytical products – the provider. The volume, variety and velocity of available information can far exceed any professional’s abilities to process and interpret. For example, our Partnership to Advance Tribal Health (PATH) participating hospitals are bombarded and confused by multiple layers of mandatory reporting and dashboards provided by local area offices, their Medicare Quality Improvement Networks, their Hospital Improvement Innovation Network organization, tribal epidemiology centers, state departments of health and many more organizations.

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Why Talking Matters

speech bubbles

Late last year I decided to tackle a topic I had been putting off for quite some time – having the dreaded end-of-life conversation with my family. No, I am not ill (thankfully), nor are my loved ones currently going through a difficult situation. However, I think it’s important to have these discussions while my family and I are in good health, without the added pressure of chronic disease or terminal illness.

I decided to start the conversation with myself and then talk with my husband, adult children, sister, mother and so on. I wanted to make some decisions about what was important to me so that others wouldn’t one day find themselves trying to figure that out for me. I love my family, but do they know what matters most to me?

I live in a house where I am the only female, so history has taught me to be at least a little skeptical that my husband and sons would be in tune with my personal wishes. I’m thinking they could use a little help in that department and would be grateful to receive it – God forbid they would need to act on it anytime soon.

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We Can’t Let Inertia Set In!

Hands in a circle

Many of you may be wondering what will happen with federal legislation to either repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act. And we’re equally curious when it will happen. Many people have told me, “Surely, by the fall we will have some legislative fix around repeal or replace.” I don’t think that’s very likely. In fact, I don’t think it’s even very likely to happen in this calendar year. There are too many special interests and not enough working across party lines to reach consensus or alignment around the core issues impacting health care. The current discussion has essentially focused only on health care coverage – which is critical, but it hasn’t even touched the areas of changing how we provide health care, how we pay for care, the supply of health care professionals, and the innovative part of health care that we need as we move into this new health care environment. We have seen lots of talk but, as of yet, no real movement over the last couple of months. So, for now the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land.

It’s anyone’s guess as to whether the gridlock in Washington will be resolved any time in the near future. For this reason, we must not allow inertia to set in. We have a broken health care system and we can’t expect that any one federal or state policy will fix it. There is so much uncertainty in all sectors of health care that you can almost sense the inertia beginning. We can’t let that happen: we need to continue to push and innovate transparency in the system around quality and cost; we need to continue to support and fund innovation; we need to continue to pilot and experiment with different payment models; and ultimately, we need to continue to push for the new health care system of the 21st century.

It’s hard work, but those of us in the trenches must roll up our sleeves and identify new partners to align with in order to drive toward a new agenda for health care. We must support our colleagues and providers on the ground in their day-to-day efforts to create a higher quality, more efficient system and walk hand-in-hand with them in a spirit of experimentation. We can’t go backward: we need to continue to look forward in our vision of how health care can and should look. We’re the torch bearers and we must continue to carry the torch forward.

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The Path of Totality—Did You See It?

Solar Eclipse

A young man, transported from 20th century Connecticut to King Arthur’s court, finds himself in a pickle, and tied to a stake for performing acts of sorcery. He happened to have an almanac with him and knew that a solar eclipse was about to occur. He warns the king that he will make the sun disappear, and on cue, the sky darkens and the sun sinks into a black hole. The king pleads with him and the young man agrees to make the sun reappear in return for his freedom.

Whenever I hear about a solar eclipse, I can’t help but think about Bing Crosby in the 1949 movie, “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” an updated version of Mark Twain’s 1889 novel. That particular scene portrays a historical representation of omens and superstition that have accompanied solar and lunar eclipses for centuries.

Today, we know that a total solar eclipse occurs when the new moon passes between the earth and the sun at a distance where the moon and the sun appear to be the same size. If in the path of totality, you would see the sun disappear for a short while, followed by images that are described as truly magnificent. The hype leading to the 2017 eclipse led millions of people to flock to the path of totality to observe what could be a once in a lifetime experience.

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Working Upstream

Granddad and granddaughter fishing

Summertime in the Pacific Northwest is a great time to catch a glimpse of salmon making the life and death journey swimming upstream back to the place of their birth.

We often talk about working “upstream” with patients with kidney failure and how critically important, yet difficult, this work can be. One out of seven Americans (30 million!) has chronic kidney disease (CKD), often referred to as the “silent killer,” due to symptoms that are undetectable until it is too late. Not only is CKD a growing public health threat, but the health care costs associated with CKD and end stage renal disease (ESRD) represent more than a quarter of all Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) claims.

Nephrologists who care for kidney patients have increasingly expressed their concern for the lack of care for patients in the early stages of ESRD (stage 1-4) before kidney failure (stage 5). Dr. Louis Cotterell, a nephrologist and member of the ESRD Network board of directors, relayed the importance of working “upstream”, he said:

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