How predictive analytics data helps your patients--and your business

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Looking for a good reason to deploy predictive analytics in your healthcare practice? Tina Buop, CIO of La Clinica de la Raza, a community health center in Oakland, Calif., has a doozy for you.

"You can bankrupt an organization very quickly if you don't understand your patient population," she told me in an interview.

I interviewed Buop in advance of FierceHealthIT's executive breakfast panel discussion, Using Predictive Analytics to Improve Quality and Efficiency, which will be held on March 6 during the HIMSS 2013 conference. On the panel, Buop will be joined by experts from leading organizations, including Intermountain Medical Center and Rush University Medical Center. Pre-registration is required for the event.

Buop (left) who recently left her post as CIO of Muir Medical Group to join La Clinica, talked about how her organization is using predictive analytics to reach out to at-risk patients, such as those with diabetes, to ensure that they are getting preventative care.

FierceHealthIT: How is your organization using predictive analytics?

Buop: La Clinica started many years ago using a product for predictive analytics to be able to help certain segments with their care. Predictive analytics such as for diabetes care--are patients progressing? Are they improving?

The approach was really led by a dynamic physician, Dr. Patri Zayas, who leads our office medical directors. There is a tough balance of managing the delivery of predictive analytics with competing priorities such as electronic health records and Meaningful use. So managing those predictive analytics and getting them into the hands of the caregiver, we found that by putting the action items into the hands of the actual sites and helping bring those patients back in to see the physician is essential. 

FHIT: What are some of the challenges of predictive analytics, and how can you overcome them?  

Buop: Predictive analytics is still a far reach from being able to reach the patient at a level they need to direct their own care. What is the priority of predictive analytics? For us, as a company, to be able to better understand our population so we know where to accept risk and how to best help the patient in advance. When you look at the ACO organizations or that type of fixed-payment model, you must know if you can withstand the financial change. Without predictive analytics--both financially and based on your patient population--those decisions are risky, at best.

You can bankrupt an organization very quickly if you don't understand your patient population. If you're going to get paid a fixed amount for that patient per month, but they are your highest utilization, how will you be able to balance your revenue sheet?

From a patient's perspective, I wish there were more robust products to be able to deliver to the patient, in a meaningful way to them, what it means to them and what they need to do differently.

What's difficult is to take the report of the patient's care and then translate it to the actions they understand and then measure that action. "Your BMI is too high, your sugar was this the last time you came in, here's the plan of action we'd like to see you do. You're going to walk .5 miles a day every other day or in 10 years, we'll be replacing both kidneys--if you qualify." Nobody likes the tough conversations with patients. Nobody likes them at all, but they are very effective and best for the patient.

FHIT: How do you convince physicians that using this data to intervene with patients who are most at risk is not just OK--but mandatory?

Buop: It depends on the employment model. If you own your own practice and your model is to keep that patient as healthy as possible so they don't come to visit you,OK. Your decree is also to keep the patient healthy and there are other incentives, such as having a modified work day or work schedule.

Kaiser, John Muir and other large organizations like the Sutters of the world have done a nice job with their employee-based model and investments in predictive analytics. We have a nice allegiance with our hospital's managed care and the neighborhoods in counties. We work closely with them. And we keep a keen eye on how are they able to do it en masse so that we can look at models that will work optimally for the size of our organization.

Want to learn more about the business case for predictive analytics and how leading organizations are using data to improve outcomes and efficiency? Be sure to join FierceHealthIT and our co-host, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, on March 6 in New Orleans. (Register here.) - Gienna (Follow @Gienna on Twitter and on Google+)

Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and for clarity. It was updated on February 13 with minor changes for further clarification. 

Learn more about the event and register online here: Using Predictive Analytics to Improve Quality and Efficiency.