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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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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

How to Develop Analytics-Informed Operational Solutions

by Karen Wolfe

A recent article published by Safety National summarizes a panel discussion from WCI’s 2016 Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference. The panel’s message reiterated that Workers’ Compensation is a data-driven industry and now massive data is available that can be used to improve experience and outcomes.[1]

Data as driver
Certainly the Workers’ Comp industry has generated loads of data and it will provide operational solutions going forward. Everyone seems to agree, data will drive improved performance and outcomes. In fact many believe big data will bring significant change to the way organizations work. But few are saying exactly how to make that happen.

Actionable data
Much is said about data and what it will do, but little is said about how to make data actionable. The article states, “A large benefit of this data is that we have a better opportunity to get great benchmarks.[2]” Yes, but even when benchmarks are identified, what will they do? How will benchmarks impact operations? Benchmarks by themselves cannot change process or outcomes. Data alone will never deliver operational solutions. It’s all about how the data is regrouped and repurposed, then how the new information is delivered to those who will actually affect the change.

Plan design
Years ago, a bridge teacher said repeatedly, “A bad plan is better than no plan at all.” The same applies to developing actionable data and operational solutions. The first and most important initiative is to develop an overall design or plan. What data is available and what information is needed? What results are needed? Who will receive the information and what will be done with it? How will the information be acknowledged and what accountability will be implemented? The plan should be comprehensive and detailed, applying considerable resources.

Identify and Collect
The plan should identify the data needed and where it can be found. What data will likely inform the desired results? Collect, organize, and integrate the data according to the plan. As a part of this process, anticipate the need for data cleansing. Incorrect or incomplete data will not lead to the desired result and unfortunately, much of the data in the Workers’ Comp industry is wanting in this regard.

Data quality
One of the unfortunate facts in the Workers’ Comp industry is that its data, while abundant, is widely inaccurate and incomplete. Such data will not lead to solutions, but to frustration, delay, and often, project termination. Know in advance the data will need cleansing and strengthening. Include this function and the necessary resources to fortify and enrich the data in the plan design.

Execute the plan by integrating, organizing, and analyzing the data. Derive the desired information from the data, including benchmarks and other noteworthy facts about claims, processes, and outcomes. There is no limit to the possibilities, and adequate time and resources must be applied to this phase. So prioritize.

Halfway there
Don’t stop now. This is only the halfway point. Now operations must be informed so that solutions are realized.
Develop the mechanisms that will automatically deliver the right information to the
right persons at the right time.
Moving the newly-found information quickly and easily to those doing the work is the only way to impact operations, processes, and outcomes.
Current information
When the information reaches the appropriate persons, it should be as current as possible. Delayed or dated information may be inaccurate and need validating before acting upon it. Worse, if those receiving the information do not trust its validity, they will not act on it at all, thereby diminishing the entire project.
Easy does it
Those who receive the information should find it easy to receive and to act upon. This is how the work of those in the trenches is elevated and improved, thereby fostering operational solutions and improved outcomes. Moreover, collateral information supporting accurate decision-making should be portrayed along with the analytics-derived information.
Management’s job is to make sure the operational goals of the project are achieved and they stay in place. One way to incorporate accountability is to create a programmatic audit trail. Generate an electronic record that details what information was sent, to whom it was sent, and regarding what. At any point, management can spot-check the process.
Measuring success
As with any major project, success must be monitored and measured. Corrections and improvements can be implemented. The easiest way to measure success is to compare performance before and after project implementation. Carve out elements of process and outcomes and measure the difference before and after implementing analytics-informed solutions.
Analytics-Informed operational solutions are powerful. Implementing them appropriately will lead to efficiency, accuracy, profitability, and significantly improved outcomes, but only if the planning, execution, and commitment is considerable.

Karen Wolfe is the founder and President of MedMetrics®, LLC, a Workers’ Compensation, analytics-Informed medical management and technical services company. MedMetrics analyzes the data and offers online products that link analytics to operations, thereby making them actionable and measureable. karenwolfe@medmetrics.org