BI adoption pace slowed by skills gap

February 22, 2014 in Medical Technology

More than half of healthcare organizations have yet to implement business intelligence systems. And with shifts toward pay-for-performance, that could leave their bottom line open to financial hits. 

Approximately 58 percent of physician practices and hospitals, in fact, said their organization has not implemented a BI system, according to a survey released Tuesday by TEKsystems. That number includes 36 percent who simply do not have a BI system, 15 percent that do not have such a system but plan to implement one in the next 12-24 months and 7 percent that actually have a BI system but have yet to implement it.

“With how the business of healthcare is shifting, organizations that have not implemented, or are not planning to implement, a business intelligence solution run the risk of losing ground quickly,” said Ryan Skains, TEKsystems director of healthcare services. “Data will be at the heart of how healthcare organizations – hospitals and physicians’ practices – get paid. That is all changing as a result of paradigm shifts in the industry around reimbursement optimization and a change from a fee-for-service to a pay-for-performance model.”

[See also: Benchmarks: Changes are afoot for clinical and business intelligence.]

The survey represents views of more than 250 healthcare professionals, including senior-level health IT executives and medical staff such as CIOs, directors of information systems and clinical informatics, physicians, and chief nursing officers. Respondents represent a wide cross section of healthcare organizations including hospitals, medical clinics, ambulatory care centers and integrated delivery systems. 


“The study clearly shows that the industry is not where it wants to be in terms of utilizing data, as solving data complexities is the top challenge they have in achieving their goals for BI,” Skains said. “There has been a lot of progress on this front, but there is a lot still to be accomplished.”

[Healthcare BI Forum: Industry experts share their success stories]

Another key takeaway from the survey is the lack of resources and skills available to implement BI systems. Other findings include:

Finance, operations and clinical care top areas for planned use. Nearly three-quarters of respondents indicated they expected a BI system to be widely used in finance (76 percent), operations (75 percent) and clinical care (71 percent).  Interestingly, about half (53 percent), expected it to be widely used for compliance.

Data complexity and lack of skills cited as top challenges. More than one-third report that data complexity poses the greatest challenge. Thirty-four percent indicated that data complexity was the top obstacle to reaching their goal of implementing a BI system. Within the data complexity category, respondents identified the most painful aspects as lack of a standardized data structure (34 percent), analysis requirements (24 percent), and disparate systems and lack of interoperability (23 percent).

Those surveyed cite lack of resources and skills as top obstacle. Thirty-two percent of respondents believe that the biggest threat to implementation is a lack of skills and resources. Of this group, the reasons most mentioned for this deficiency include lack of internal and external resources and experts (45 percent), commitment of resources to other technology programs (25 percent) and lack of strategic workforce planning expertise (12 percent).

Data completeness and availability are top goals for BI initiatives. The study showed the need for data is a top goal by far. Forty-eight percent of respondents cite improvement of data availability and completeness as one of the top three goals for their BI system implementation. Other top goals include patient care and payment processes; better connection of patient treatments to medical outcomes (37 percent); optimization of reimbursements (34 percent); and meeting pay-for-performance standards (32 percent).

[See also: Deloitte taps the Zen of data analytics.]

Data IT expertise will present the greatest hiring challenge. Data architects and analysts most difficult to find. Eighty-six percent of respondents believe that data architects will be the most difficult role to fill when looking for BI implementation skill sets. Other skill sets that will be difficult to secure include those of data analysts (84 percent), business analysts (81 percent) and software developers (80 percent).

Organizations are taking a multipronged approach to addressing staffing challenges. Tactics include consultation with outside vendors (43 percent), using the software vendor’s consulting services (36 percent), hiring permanent staff to support the implementation (35 percent) and hiring contingent labor to support implementation (30 percent).

“There can be several massive health IT projects going on concurrently at any organization and a lot of talent is dedicated to those initiatives,” Skains said. “This makes it even more important to prioritize workforce planning and find the right IT talent.”

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