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The MedMetrics blog provides comments and insights regarding the world of Workers’ Compensation, principally, issues that are medically-related. The blog offers viewpoints regarding issues affecting the industry written by persons who have long experience in the industry. Our intent is to offer additional fabric, perspective, and hopefully, inspiration to our readers.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

How to Convert Your Data to a Valuable Corporate Asset by Karen Wolfe

Data is the organizations’ most valuable asset
At the beginning of the personal computing era back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s a frequent motivation for computerizing was that data is the organization’s most valuable asset. The idea was a persuasive argument for investing big dollars in computerization. Nevertheless, though the value of data as an asset could be envisioned back then, it was actually far from it.

Rather than an asset, computers, software, and data were burdensome and expensive. Continuous capital investments were needed to improve the hardware as technology rapidly advanced. Software, limited by hardware memory and capacity resulted in incomplete data. Workers struggled to adapt to data entry discipline, an entirely new way to work. Moreover, data was often corrupted or lost by systems that were primitive by today’s standards. Managing networks was arduous. Data backup and storage required ever more hardware and new systems demanded data migration, along with the IT personnel to manage the all the processes. It was an all-encompassing and pricey undertaking with little benefit realized.

Now what?
Despite the challenges, organizations overcame the obstacles and committed to computerization, still chasing the data value proposition. Over the years, organizations have amassed boatloads of data, begging the question: Now what? Sitting in storage, the data certainly is not an asset! Instead, it must be gathered, integrated and analyzed to gain intelligence about how to proceed.

Walmart modeled the next step many years ago by implementing analytics. They began analyzing their data to derive intelligence about their own organization, the effectiveness of their processes, and their customers’ buying patterns. Walmart leveraged analytics to improve processes, optimize operations, trim costs and improve profitability. Following their lead, most other organizations in every industry have adopted initiatives for analyzing their data.

Workers’ Comp boards the bandwagon
The Workers’ Compensation industry is no exception. Of late, many organizations in the industry are executing analytics. Departments have been created with dedicated experts who analyze the data to derive intelligence. Nevertheless, people are now asking the question, “What should we do with the analytics?” They realize analytics alone cannot elevate the copious data to the level of an organizational asset.

Analytics alone do not an asset make
Having amassed so much data, people correctly think it should be made useful. Yet, analytics too often reside in attractive graphic reports made available to the top echelon, the board, shareholders and managers. However, to be useful, to be an asset that can change processes and outcomes based in the intelligence gained, analytics must made available to the people who do the organization’s work. Line personnel must have access to easy, actionable tools that cause them to act on the intelligence gained through analytics. Only those who do the organization’s work can change processes and create value. But they cannot achieve change without help. Analytics must be operationalized.

Operationalize the intelligence
Again using Walmart as an example, one piece of information gained from their analyzed data is exactly what people purchase in different geographic regions when a weather disaster is forecast. That information told them what to do in response, what action to take. Walmart systems were reengineered to automatically shift distribution channels in response to weather advisories, thereby insuring the right commodities arrive in time in the stores affected by the weather. The quantifiable benefits are that customers are satisfied by finding the products they need and Walmart profits are boosted because they have enough goods to sell.

Analytics tell Walmart what is needed and what processes must be changed to respond to a new set of conditions. But nothing will happen until their systems are changed to apply that information. That is linking analytics to operations to actualize the knowledge gained through analytics.

In the case of Workers’ Comp., opportunities to apply analytics to modify processes in real time are abundant. For example, analyze the data to find the best medical doctors for treating low back strain in specific geographic areas. Claimants can be directed to those doctors who have a record of excellence. Or, analyze provider prescription practices to identify those prescribing opioids and other potentially addictive drugs. But most importantly, do not stop there! Automatically alert line personnel so they can initialize appropriate action.

The critical final stage—simplicity
Whatever method is used to link analytics to operations must be elegantly simple for the user. If Walmart required store managers to follow a written procedure to rush-order products based on local forecasts, chances are good the results would be unsatisfactory. If the process adds to the workload or requires looking up directions, little will be gained. To be effective, systems should do the work and automatically direct or redirect actions.

For data to become a valuable corporate asset, it must be gathered from all the appropriate sources, integrated, and analyzed, with the results automatically linked to operations, thereby mobilizing appropriate and timely action.

Learn how MedMetrics will transform your data to valuable corporate assets for you. Finally, the promise is fulfilled.

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