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Healthcare Leaders Blog: Data, Analytics, and the Emerging Role of the CMIO, Gregory Ator, MD., CMIO

Posted by Gregory Ator, M.D., CMIO on September 16, 2015 at 9:00 AM


Data, Analytics, and the Emerging Role of the CMIO

By Gregory Ator, MD., CMIO, of the University of Kansas Hospital (Kansas City), University of Kansas Physicians Inc.

The role of data and analytics in healthcare especially as it relates to transparency has been discussed widely. What is your view of how data and analytics has changed and will continue to change the way healthcare is delivered?

It is well known that healthcare is moving from volume to value - value defined as optimal outcomes for the least cost. And with some urgency, many organizations are trying to figure out how to successfully navigate this transition. At the crux of this shift, is the availability of data. Data is crucial because you can’t achieve optimal quality and outcomes without it. Accurate clinician documentation in the EMR is more important than ever because this is what generates process improvement data points, hopefully, as a by-product of the care process. In order for all this to work, improved clinician-friendly EMR functionality is desperately needed.

So what part does analytics play? Once you have the data, analytics is the tool needed to translate this data into intervention areas where you can identify and reduce waste. This new paradigm fundamentally changes the way healthcare is delivered. There is a much more focused attention on the patient experience and how to engage them in their own care. By being able to provide options to patients that are informed by an analysis of outcomes, they can clearly understand the impact on their health. For example, what happens if they don’t exercise or stop taking a medication? We can give them real analysis to respond to and it can be a very powerful tool.

Analytics is also key for population health management. By looking at your patient population, you can now identify gaps in care and bring in those patients who need to be seen, order necessary labs or reach out to patients to make sure they are taking their medications. Data and analytics have also changed healthcare by allowing clinicians to practice evidence-based medicine – the data is constantly being analyzed for outcomes and then translated into best practices.

As for the future, I think precision medicine is the next frontier. Again, because all this clinical information is now aggregated and analyzed, clinicians will be able to customize patent care and make appropriate decisions based on molecular mechanisms hopefully with less trial and error loops.

The role of the CMIO is becoming increasing important as healthcare organizations connect information systems with clinical processes. How has this connection contributed to cost savings for your organization and what has been your biggest surprise in your role as CMIO?

The CMIO sits in the middle between technical and clinical, and serves as a translator of sorts. The central function of the role is to interpret care process and drivers to the technical team while translating technical abilities, limitations, and constraints to the clinical team. I often see my role as a broker or mediator. 

It’s a crucial role because in order to succeed in healthcare, you need to link the information systems and clinical processes. As data flows through the systems, you can improve outcomes by applying best practices, reduce waste, and improve the patient experience. 

My biggest surprise in the CMIO role has been the underestimation of current trends in medicine by clinicians. The transition from volume to value, the central importance of outcomes and need for cost reductions are all important shifts that haven’t gained the attention needed to navigate in this new environment. To thrive, there needs to be continual communication, attention to change management, along with the right tools and a change in culture. 

How do you think healthcare will change over the next five years?

Healthcare is changing and will continue to do so at a rapid pace. But in order to maintain this pace, you need a few things like properly placed incentives (advanced payment mechanisms like ACO and other risk sharing, bundled payments), robust tools including a responsive, clinician-friendly EMR and downstream analytics. 

With a ten-fold variation in cost of care across some parts of the country, there’s a significant amount of waste to be trimmed. Attention to quality will reduce many of these costs. We are entering an era in healthcare where precision medicine, informed by predictive analytics, is yielding a high quality patient experience at a much reduced cost. Having patients engaged while decisions are made about them, both on a personal and enterprise level, will rapidly accelerate these changes. The status quo is simply not good enough. Transparency along with good data and analytics will prevail.  


Gregory Ator, MD. CMIO of the University of Kansas Hospital (Kansas City). Dr. Ator's tenure has been characterized by using patient data to improve the hospital's clinical and financial performance, and developing and implementing systems that give providers access to relevant and actionable information at the point of care. He is also an advocate for engaging physicians in the health IT implementation process and was named one of Becker’s Hospital Review 25 CMIOs to Know.

Topics: data, healthcare EMR, Data analytics, thought leadership, healthcare leaders, advice, electronic healthcare information, patient experience, CMIO, Healthcare Analytics, Hayes Thought Leadership Blog Series

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