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The Surprising Endurance of Status Quo in Healthcare Analytics

Status quo, as everyone knows, is Latin for the existing state of affairs, particularly in a political context. Ironically, the reliance on governmental and political organizations as the source of data analytics is the status quo for thousands of U.S. hospitals.

No one wants to be part of the status quo, or at least admit to it, except in Washington, D.C. No one actually wants to be the kids from the ad - which is why it is so funny.

Healthcare is no different. Health systems now have Chief Innovation Officers and technology incubators and precision medicine initiatives. I have yet to meet anyone with the title of SVP of Non-Strategic Growth or Director of Non-Strategic Planning.

Logic suggests that accuracy is important for understanding how to develop and execute growth strategies and tactics in the $1T sliver of the GDP represented by hospitals. History suggests that the status quo is all too often the victor over logic, until one day the inescapable reality of logic overwhelms the vested interest of the status quo.

Relying on inpatient hospital data collected by state hospital associations two years ago is a strange way to understand the future when more than half of all healthcare services are delivered in ambulatory settings. Using historical inpatient and outpatient data about senior citizens with traditional Medicare to understand the future behavior of younger commercially insured patients is less than obvious. Even so, it is the status quo, and it has a slogan that even Dilbert knows: “It is directionally accurate.”

Healthcare delivery is in the midst of a fundamental and irreversible change, and health systems will suffer the most. If your goal is to plan for seismic systemic change in the part of the U.S. economy that is on pace to bankrupt America, being “directionally correct” with the status quo is not good enough.

General Eric Shinseki, the United States Secretary of Veteran Affairs from 2009-2014, said, “If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more.” The path to irrelevance as a health system is paved with strategies developed on CMS and hospital association data as a good strategy. The only shorter path is to develop strategies without using any analytics at all.