Analytics is a hot topic in healthcare these days, as hospitals realize that they now have an immense amount of data in digital format in their electronic medical records (EMRs). The possibilities for analysis are endless, and offer the opportunity to improve care and lower costs. Also, the new outcomes-based reimbursement models that are starting to be used will require a much greater level of understanding than is currently the case. The use of analytics will be an imperative for most healthcare organizations.

The big question for many healthcare executive teams is: Where do we start?

The first step, as with most new endeavors, is figuring out who should hold responsibility for decision-making. Setting up a governance structure will ensure that you take a strategic approach from the beginning. Without executive guidance, there is a danger that individuals in the organization who are eager to use analytics will acquire single point solutions that are limited in scope. While each of these solutions may meet the requirements of a narrow section of the organization, a plethora of such point solutions can quickly become an IT management nightmare. And while each is relatively inexpensive, they don’t offer much long-term value. If individual departments or business units buy whatever analytics package looks best at the moment, you can easily waste a lot of your analytics budget on short-term solutions.

That’s an important reason for starting with a solid governance structure that looks at the needs of the enterprise as a whole.

So who should hold responsibility for governance? I believe it should be a team led by the CIO, with active participation from clinical and business departments.  

The CIO is uniquely positioned to understand how data is collected, managed and structured within the enterprise. CIOs can guide the business and clinical leaders in selection of a software platform that fits the IT environment and is capable of handling enterprise-wide analytic needs. By implementing one flexible platform you ensure a standardized dashboard format that will be used by all. In the long run, such standardization will make information sharing much easier and will increase adoption of analytic tools.

Clinical and business leaders should also be intimately involved, because they know what questions they need answered. They can provide the CIO with an understanding of how the data can be used. This team approach offers a wide perspective that will ensure that all the organization’s needs are met.

This team can also act as a resource for all the eager analytics champions across the organization, helping them structure their data and their use cases for the best results. If you don’t have much analytics expertise in-house, a good consultant can help guide the team as they select a software program and choose the first projects that will be taken on. A consultant can also help you grow your in-house expertise by guiding your training and mentoring efforts.

While getting a fast start in analytics is key to future success, don’t overlook the importance of this first step. While setting up a governance structure may seem time-consuming, it will, in the long run, make for a smoother and more successful analytics program.

Sid Nair is vice president and general manager for Healthcare and Life Sciences, Dell Services. In this role, he leads the sales engine, client executives, consultants, domain specialists, pre-sales, practice and delivery teams covering applications, business process outsourcing and consulting for healthcare customers.