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Barriers to Analytics

Healthcare organizations desiring to gain more analytical expertise face a variety of challenges. Providers—other than the wealthiest academic medical centers—have historically lacked the data, money, and skilled people for analytical projects and models. Even when they are able to implement such systems, they may face difficulties integrating analytics into daily clinical practice and objections from clinical personnel in using analytical decision-making approaches. Payers typically have more data than providers or patients, but as noted above the data are related to processes and payments (administrative databases) rather than health outcomes (research databases). Moreover, many payers do not now have cultures and processes that employ analytical decision making.

Life sciences firms have long had analytical cultures at the core of their research and clinical processes, but this doesn’t ensure their ongoing business success. Clinical trials are becoming increasingly complex and clinical research more difficult to undertake given the restrictions imposed by Institutional Review Boards, ethics committees, and liability concerns. Drug development partnerships make analytics an interorganizational issue. And the decline of margins in an increasingly strained industry makes it more difficult to afford extensive analytics.

While statistical analyses have been used in research, analytics has not historically been core to the commercial side of life sciences industries, particularly in the relationship with physicians’ practice patterns. Life sciences firms must normally buy physician prescribing data from a third-party source, and the data typically arrive in standard tables and reports rather than in formats suitable for further analysis. The firms increasingly need to target particular physicians, provider institutions, and buying groups, but most do not have the data or information to do so effectively.

Despite these obstacles, healthcare organizations have little choice but to embrace analytics. Their extensive use is the only way patients will receive effective care at an affordable cost.

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