The U.S. healthcare system continues to face immense challenges as hospitals, health systems, and other healthcare providers endure persistent margin pressures spurred by rising expenses.
Numerous factors compound the problem, including ongoing supply chain interruptions, inflation, and nationwide labor shortages.
Healthcare leaders seeking to navigate these difficulties need access to robust data and analytics to inform decision-making. Yet many organizations lack a core foundation of sound data governance needed to effectively leverage data as a strategic asset. Data governance in healthcare refers to how organizations manage the people, processes, and technologies involved in collecting and analyzing financial, clinical, and operational data.
Effective data governance requires organizations to adopt a leadership structure and best practices for data and analysis. They must ensure they collect the right data, deliver that data to the right users in an actionable manner, and measure the return on data and analytics investments.
One primary challenge is that care teams typically are siloed, which contributes to disparate data and analytics across various departments and service lines. Proper data governance helps break down those barriers to link data and insights organizationwide. Data governance also helps healthcare leaders across the organization understand what data is valuable, how to measure for apples-to-apples comparisons, and how to use insights to drive organizational change.
Looking at a real-world example demonstrates the vital role data plays in planning and day-to-day operations. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, labor shortages have impacted the financial health of hospitals, staff morale, and ultimately patient care. A recent McKinsey survey found that 29% of responding registered nurses (RNs) in the U.S. indicated they were likely to leave their current role in direct patient care, with many respondents noting their intent to leave the workforce entirely.
Amid the COVID-19 Omicron surge in January and February, many hospitals looked to contract and travel nurses to fill gaps in their staff. The strategy came at a high financial cost — the median hourly rate paid to staffing firms for contract RNs jumped to a high point of 170% above the median hourly rate paid to employed RNs in January 2022, according to an American Hospital Association and Syntellis Performance Solutions report that compared data from more than 1,000 hospitals and health systems.
In recent months, the disparities in pay for contract versus employed RNs leveled off to less than 15%, but hospitals nationwide continue to feel the repercussions of high staffing costs. In May, hospitals and health systems nationwide reported a fifth consecutive month of margin declines due to ongoing labor challenges and other rising expenses, according to the June Syntellis Performance Trends report.
To manage these challenges, healthcare leaders need to accurately assess their expenses and pinpoint discrepancies, such as those experienced during the surge in contract RN costs. However, making these comparisons and evaluating broader impacts is impossible without effective data governance to ensure consistent data processes organizationwide.
Too few healthcare leaders have the right tools to collect and analyze data from across their organizations meaningfully. Consider the contract RN pay rate example: leaders must first ensure those rates are uniformly recorded across various departments, then analyze the data and share it with nursing managers who can implement strategies to address high costs, such as better flexing staffing levels with patient demand and making efforts to retain employed RNs.
Manual processes for these tasks are too cumbersome for an already overburdened workforce; healthcare organizations need technology that makes data normalization, analysis, and result-sharing quick and easy for employees. Syntellis’ intelligent planning and performance solutions empower healthcare leaders with tools that securely integrate data across the organization, minimizing the need for manual entry or data reconciliation. Syntellis’ suite of solutions also makes it easy to compare an organization’s metrics with peer organizations in near real-time and report those results to stakeholders, who then can identify and act on improvement opportunities.
Effective data governance and the ability to connect disparate data empowers healthcare leaders to improve their organizations’ overall financial and clinical performance. With the right tools, hospitals and health systems can better prepare for ongoing challenges and continue serving their communities with excellence.
Steve Wasson is General Manager, Data & Intelligence Solutions at Syntellis Performance Solutions, where he directs the data and intelligence strategy and leads the teams overseeing Syntellis’ ever-expanding data footprint. With a focus on innovation, Steve drives how our portfolio and our customers accelerate value through data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
Steve has been a central figure in leveraging data as a strategic asset for over 25 years, previously serving as SVP and General Manager, Connected Analytics & Capacity Management at Change Healthcare and Vice President of Clinical Solutions at RelayHealth. He has led businesses through significant transformation and growth while delivering differentiating solutions and has applied the power of data across various sectors, with a primary focus on healthcare technology.
Steve holds a B.S. in Economics from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an Executive M.B.A. from San Diego State University.