That which can be measured can be optimized…is almost right. - SMARTMD That which can be measured can be optimized…is almost right. - SMARTMD

Turning data (measurements) into actionable information is an art and a science. Every graph or report should tell a story that:

  1. Is easily understood
  2. Related to the reader’s own actions (they can affect it)
  3. Provides insights for next steps/action

There are many challenges to gaining actionable insights with data.  A few of these issues are:

Unstructured Processes

Challenges start with the structure, or lack thereof, in processes; important information resides in inaccessible, unstructured formats when shared through paper, fax, text, email, or telephone. When data resides in these formats, understanding any given case is difficult, and an aggregate view of processes is impossible.

Inaccessible Data

If there are processes for collecting data, accessing the data is often the next challenge. Sometimes the access is purposely restricted. Other times the data is collected so that sharing widely is impractical (think stand-alone spreadsheets). When information is unavailable, making decisions or knowing what decisions must be made becomes difficult.

Improper or Ineffectual Reporting Methods

The third issue is interpreting the information in a timely manner so action can be taken. Access to information is not sufficient. The information must be presented in a context relevant to the data’s nature. Data can be presented in many different ways, and not all of them fit the story the information should tell. 

What’s stopping organizations from improving?

Getting an organization to the point where data becomes actionable information has frustrated many hospice and palliative care facilities. A common theme in these situations is the tendency to try to tweak a current, flawed process. Old processes tend to be poor foundations for substantive improvements. 

Inertia is another obstacle. Staying in the comfort zone is a natural tendency for people and organizations alike. Despite a real desire to improve, there simply is too much inertia behind current processes. 

Evidence by anecdote. We see the business go up and down. But the connection between cause and effect is tenuous at best. Nonetheless, in our effort to “understand,” we accept what are really anecdotes as evidence and allow ourselves to be satisfied with the status quo. 

To achieve a state of actionable information and insights, organizations must overcome obstacles of various sorts. This becomes less difficult if existing tools and examples are in place to build confidence in the veracity of change.

Ground Up Systems Development 

SMARTMD used a process of Digital Transformation to overcome these challenges. Without diving into the minutiae of product development, we started not by trying to adjust current processes but by reimagining processes based on the current state of technology.

From this perspective, we developed tools that, by default, track every interaction. This provides data that allows us to see how staff, patients, and caregivers interact with the tools. We refer to this as “digital exhaust.” All this data is usually ignored. But, if we create the systems to capture and extract it, we learn much about how users interact with the system. Applying proper visualization tools, this data provides valuable insights into where and how organizations can improve.

Identify & Prioritize Areas for Improvement

Applying visualization allows us to know where we should focus our efforts for improvement. The key to a visualization technique is that it represents activity and responds to actions promptly. 

 In “What’s your admissions shape,” we show how to identify impediments to the patient admission process. This article gives several examples of how the issues manifest in visualizations and what steps can be taken to address them. 

With various visualization techniques, we help hospice clients manage, monitor and fix referrals, sales management, and admissions issues. Each visualization or graph represents the data so users and managers know where to focus their attention.

Getting started

We recommend that our customers implement the tools but don’t try to do everything possible with the data. Have employees and staff become accustomed to the tools. 

Novice activity

Use the basic daily “progress” reports to see where the activity stands. This help ensures tactical steps are being taken. 

Advanced activity

On a mid-term basis, perhaps quarterly, review sources for changes and gaps in referrals, sale process, and admissions trends. Based on the information gathered, set targets for improvement or corrective action where necessary.

Expert activity

Long-term systemic improvements and goals. From optimizing referral sources to reducing patient admissions time, use the information to set goals and benchmark progress. At this point, you are truly at the “if it can be measured, it can be optimized” stage.

Migrating to a new system

We’ve helped dozens of customers implement digital tools to improve their processes and make significant, measurable improvements in hospice and palliative care admissions. The first step is a conversation so we understand your starting point. Then we can map out a plan to bring the tools to your organization and help your team implement them. 

As this occurs, we also help managers and executives set up and interpret reporting to make additional improvements. In our experience, once our tools are implemented, organizations begin to experience less frustration, have clearer views of what is happening, and feel less overwhelmed. The tools help to quantify this experience and point to ways to expand it.