By Kayt Sukel and Pamela Tabar
Leading officials from the winning vendor teams share their stories
Innovation is taking place across the various sectors of U.S. healthcare—not only across the provider sector, but also across the vendor sector. The editors of Healthcare Informatics asked an esteemed panel of national industry leaders to evaluate submissions from dozens of solutions providers in five critical areas of innovation development; below are the firms whose solutions our judges identified as offering the most promise to help transform healthcare.
Innovation in Data Analytics: axialHealthcare
The 2018 winner in the category of Data Analytics is axialHealthcare, a Nashville, Tenn.-based company that helps provide data-driven insights to payer and provider organizations regarding pain management. Chief Science Officer (CSO) of Axial Healthcare, Elizabeth Ann Stringer, Ph.D., spoke with Healthcare Informatics about staying agile—and understanding how to use your data to enhance both quality care and your organization’s bottom line today.
Tell me about axialHealthcare’s vision for data analytics in healthcare.
Elizabeth Ann Stringer: axialHealthcare is a pain and opioid healthcare company that works with payer organizations. Our value proposition is in how we analyze data and then integrate that into technological solutions that are placed directly in the workflow of our end users. To dive a bit deeper, we start with claims-based data analysis with the goals of decreasing costs, optimizing coverage, and increasing the quality of care being delivered to their members. We focus on this subset of the member population that’s in pain and are being subscribed opioids, and then try to identify who may have an opioid use disorder.
There aren’t just one or two diagnosis codes that identify members who are in pain. It isn’t always the easiest thing to determine. We often say, “These members are everywhere, but they’re nowhere,” because they can be so hard to find. Our goal is to identify them and the providers who care for them—so we can better triage, prioritize, and then match those members with the different care solutions that we have. Our data analytics models help us stratify this population.
We can do the same for the providers themselves. We can assess them and their behavior patterns and then score them on how they are providing care. It allows us to highlight the providers who are doing a great job. But also identify providers who may need more outreach, education, and support so they can better care for this challenging population of patients.
Elizabeth Ann Stringer, Ph.D.
How do you see the competitive marketplace moving in the data analytics space?
Elizabeth Ann Stringer: It’s an interesting time. Big data is everywhere, both inside and outside the healthcare system. Everyone is interested in data but what’s less apparent is what to do with it. How can you use it to make better decisions?
We believe it is necessary, within the realm of data analytics, to bring together multi-disciplinary teams. These teams should include the data scientists who understand the questions you want to ask—how to set up a problem and test a hypothesis. They need statisticians to ensure the accuracy and statistical integrity of the data. They need a Masters of Public Health to think more broadly about the impact on the healthcare system. They need someone who can talk about medical economics. Because, at the end of the day, that’s what is driving so much of this. Yes, we want access to quality care but if you can’t affect the bottom line, it’s going to be difficult to bring in revenue and affect change.
There is a wealth of data out there but you need to filter it and shape it in a way so it can be used for analysis. You need people who can not only understand the analysis but also tell a good story about what it means—connecting with business buyers and helping them understand the value. Building these multi-disciplinary teams is going to be more and more important in healthcare. Too often, now, we have data scientists who are isolated, not integrated well into their organizations, and unable to help their organizations really use their output. We need these functional teams to communicate and share ideas so that once an opportunity is identified, it doesn’t take another twelve months to make a change.
To what do you attribute axialHealthcare’s success?
Elizabeth Ann Stringer: It goes back to those multi-disciplinary teams. Our success can be attributed to bringing all those key players together. We have the right people who can align themselves with the business of healthcare, move quickly, and appreciate the expertise and contributions from other team members who come from different backgrounds.
We wouldn’t be where we are today if all of these different players with their different expertise and experience weren’t coming together to solve this problem of pain management. The opioid epidemic is huge and it continues to evolve. It takes a lot of talent to be able to respond to that.
How do you see the future—both in terms of challenges and opportunities—when it comes to data analytics?
Elizabeth Ann Stringer: We know that the opioid epidemic continues to evolve. But it’s the same in healthcare. There’s so much uncertainty about where healthcare is going. It’s driving a large part of our national deficit. Real changes need to happen for any sort of sustainability in the field. Having the tools on hand to be adaptable is necessary for any organization within healthcare right now. Axial has done a good job of adapting. So many organizations are stuck on what worked well last year, or even 10 years ago, or what’s specific to their region of the country. We can learn from that history, of course, but we can’t put too much emphasis on the past if we are to move forward.
Being able to respond quickly takes an iterative approach. At Axial, we want to refine and enhance our offerings so we can help healthcare organizations identify opportunities that are readily actionable today and then start prioritizing them. Tackle those changes, see how the market responds, see how it improves care, and then move on to the next enhancement. That’s what it’s going to take.
Read the full article highlighting all five winning vendors here.
By Kayt Sukel and Pamela Tabar