“Math Majors, Rejoice!” Analytics in Healthcare

An article in today’s NYTimes cites a McKinsey study that shows the value of analytics to healthcare in the US could be $300 Billion.   They cite a challenge of finding people with “deep analytical” skills, which is certainly true, but what I’ve seen is that the cultural and operational difficulty of changing processes in healthcare (in hospitals, at least) is a far bigger hurdle.

I’ve been lucky enough to experience a lot of different firms in a lot of different industries through my career.  Some places that loathe change, some fear challenging (or sometimes even discussing) an executive’s point of view on a topic, but these are usually limited to certain pockets.  However, the attitude universal in healthcare seems to be “yes, it’s broken, and is causing inefficiency if not outright bad patient care, but it’s too hard to change it so I’m going to keep my head down.”

In fairness, it is far harder to change things in a hospital than in business: the incentive structure dictated by regulation and insurance are certainly daunting.  But you could argue that the gains in human and economic terms are larger than in the private sector, so the opportunity should be that much more worthwhile.

I’m generally pessimistic on the ability of analytics to identify, measure, and capitalize upon improvements in care or efficiency in a hospital setting, until the organizations fundamentally change their cultures enough to allow it.