How to Solve the Data Crisis Caused by a Hospital Merger

by | Aug 6, 2018 | Healthcare

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The headquarters of Dimensional Insight is so close to Lahey Medical Center that it’s more appropriate to walk there than to drive there. Our Burlington neighbor is the latest in a growing trend of large scale hospital mergers. Lahey is awaiting approval on a proposed merger with Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center that would form the second largest hospital system in the state. Speaking with RevCycle Intelligence, Stuart H. Altman, Chair of Commission of Mass Health Policy, called the merger, “the most significant change in the structure of the Massachusetts healthcare market in more than 20 years.”

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The upside of these mergers, greater efficiency and price control, are well documented; however, the technological downsides are rarely addressed. Combining two massive health systems creates a huge strain on the information flow of the resulting organization and demands a revenue cycle analytics system that is able to handle the influx of data.

What problems do mergers cause?

From an informational perspective, the issues with mergers arise from hospitals combining two (or more) different electronic health records (EHRs). In Lahey’s case, the system is not only merging with Beth Israel, but also with New England Baptist Hospital, Mount Auburn Hospital, and Anna Jacques Hospital, which expands the possibility for incongruous EHRs.

Hospitals facing this problem will now face a two-fold instance of siloed data. Before any merger occurs, patient data is often only accessible through individual reports making the information extremely time-consuming to acquire. Following the merger, the problem is exacerbated by multiple EHRs that make getting one system-wide ambulatory report, say, a near impossibility.
Billing is also an issue as hospitals need to reconcile their in-house or outsourced billing systems. The friction caused by this dynamic can lead to unbilled patients and revenue falling through the cracks.

Beyond the inability to receive timely analysis, a merger sans analytics restricts the new health system from viewing its data from the past. The CIO in charge of the merged health system has no knowledge of the historical data of his or her fellow organizations. For example, if one health system is merging with another that has been struggling with surgical care for the past five years, it can be difficult to obtain the data to figure out why that is the case because it’s trapped in old systems.

How can analytics solve these problems?

Analytics solves these issues through its ability to read data from multiple EHRs and other systems to give a healthcare organization an accurate view of its present and past. An analytics solution that can extract data from many different technology systems allows administrators to view trends in data as a merger takes place. For example, analytics could spot variations in statistics that often lag following a merger, such as Discharge Without Bill, to help eliminate financial inefficiencies. Analytics offers health systems a closer look at their day-to-day finances in a time when the information can seem overwhelming.

Along with an improved view of the present, an RCM analytics solution allows the health system to make decisions regarding past performance. This is possible through the option to load past data into the system. Going back to the surgical care example from earlier, if the merging system had the ability to analyze the struggling hospital’s data it would have seen the struggling department and diverted resources to fix the problem. Lahey Medical and Beth Israel, along with an increasing glut of merging hospitals around the nation, would be better primed to resolve issues past, present, and future if they employed an RCM analytics solution in their information management system.

Teddy Craven

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