Access to comprehensive data integrated from a variety of sources is crucial for addressing practice variability.

Navigating the complexity of unwarranted clinical variation for enhanced patient care

In the United States, the healthcare industry faces many challenges, including rising costs and evolving reimbursement models, but one of the issues it grapples with is especially persistent: over- and underutilization of services.

Several factors contribute to variations in clinical care, including the compliance with standardized clinical guidelines, financial incentives that influence treatment decisions, and a scarcity of trusted data.

  • Compliance with Standardized Clinical Guidelines: The absence of empirical data to understand compliance with standardized clinical guidelines or protocols across healthcare providers can lead to variations in care practices.
  • Financial Incentives: In fee-for-service payment models, there is a potential for overutilization of tests and procedures, while capitated payment models may lead to underutilization of necessary treatments due to cost-saving measures.
  • Data Scarcity: The scarcity of trusted data and a robust data analytics platform that brings together a wide variety of sources can hinder efforts to identify and address care variation.

Many healthcare leaders are embracing data-driven strategies for improvement. Access to comprehensive data sources is crucial for addressing these challenges. These sources include electronic health records (EHRs), patient satisfaction surveys, patient outcomes, and more.

Quality Improvement Efforts Must Target Clinical Variation

Strategies to reduce care variation help improve patient care and population health and can control healthcare costs. The ability to monitor compliance with standardized clinical processes and protocols can reduce adverse outcomes and improve resource utilization, profitability, and patient experience.

One area ripe for improvement through data analytics solutions is antibiotic prescription rates. Decreasing the incidence of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions involves adhering to established prescribing protocols. A performance analytics solution helps healthcare organizations understand diagnostic and prescribing practices among their providers and pinpoint variation. With d2i, transparent monitoring of precisely what happens throughout the patient journey becomes possible, facilitating the identification of practice patterns and variability.

It’s a similar story in pediatric imaging. To ensure patient safety, every procedure must be justified from a medical standpoint, and the radiation dose administered must be meticulously optimized. Analytics offer actionable insights that are derived from structured clinical data, the patient chart, and evidence-based guidelines, helping to minimize patient radiation exposure. While effective oversight of diagnostic imaging patterns is important for all patient cohorts, it is particularly so with children, who are more sensitive to radiation.

The Power of Collaboration

One vital strategy in addressing clinical variation is fostering collaboration. Healthcare organizations are increasingly seeking partners that offer high-quality data and analytics to pinpoint areas for improvement. Collaborative efforts not only enable targeted enhancements but also result in substantial cost savings without compromising care quality. Through robust partnerships, healthcare systems can transcend isolated pockets of excellence and break free from siloed thinking. Many challenges require interdepartmental cooperation supported by trusted, timely, and transparent data. Siloed perspectives, where departments prioritize their interests, may overlook upstream causes and disregard downstream effects, emphasizing the need for a holistic and collaborative approach to drive systemwide quality improvement.

One example of such collaboration is the introduction of the RSQ® Dashboard by The Sullivan Group (TSG) and d2i. This pioneering analytics program was unveiled in October at the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) Scientific Assembly conference. The RSQ® Dashboard is designed to help hospital systems and medical group providers reduce medical errors and adverse events in emergency medicine.

This groundbreaking solution leverages d2i’s extensive data infrastructure and combines it with TSG’s domain expertise in patient safety. The RSQ® Dashboard offers key features, including the management of patients discharged from the ED with abnormal vital signs, insights into returns to the ED within 72 hours, and the appropriate management of life-threatening “seconds-to-minutes” emergencies for patients presenting to the ED.

A Data-Driven Approach to Continuous Improvement

To tackle clinical variation effectively, relying on high-quality data and robust analytics is imperative. Access to curated EHR, patient flow, vital signs, orders, results data, and clinical notes is required. This comprehensive dataset empowers stakeholders to analyze practice variation, patient outcomes, and costs. This analysis can be filtered based on location, ESI, diagnostic subgroup, or provider, enabling a targeted approach to improve overall healthcare delivery.

Healthcare groups can use tools like d2i solutions to identify clinical processes with significant variation and resource consumption, thereby positioning them to shift toward value-based care with an emphasis on adherence to clinical guidelines, improving outcomes, and reducing costs.

By having the right data, healthcare organizations can pinpoint variations in care processes and identify areas where compliance with standards can make the most significant impact, fostering a data-driven culture of continuous improvement.

Standardizing Healthcare Processes With Data

Standardizing healthcare practices is a multifaceted challenge addressed through collaboration, data analytics, and a commitment to continuous improvement. By leveraging the power of data, healthcare organizations can navigate the complexities of unwarranted clinical variation to promote positive change in the ever-evolving landscape of the U.S. healthcare industry.

Empower your healthcare processes with data-driven standardization. Contact d2i or request a demo to explore hospital and emergency medicine data analytics solutions trusted by more than 350 organizations.