How Data Analytics is Changing the Community Space for Good

July 8, 2019

Today, the community health space is inundated with serious challenges. Leaders and staff face changes in legislature and in payer reimbursement, rising drug costs and Medicare-heavy payer mixes. More than ever before, organizations must focus on reducing their cost—but without sacrificing their quality.

For many of these organizations, they are the only healthcare facility in their rural town or area that provides the services they do. In fact, for these organizations, choosing to cut back or remove a service line can have a huge impact on the community—where a patient might have to drive an hour or two to access that service or specialty.

This makes the mission of the community or rural hospital far more personal. It’s not just about financial survival—it’s about providing the highest possible level of care to a patient community, while driving margin to reinvest in serving that patient community.

Leveraging Data Analytics

For Ben Schaab at CGH Medical Center, facing the tough challenges ahead comes down to leveraging the very best data analytics. For the Northern Illinois acute care facility, managing margins comes down to looking at accurate, accessible data.

“In the old days,” Schaab says, “it was difficult to tie clinical data to claims data, because it would have been a long, manual process without the advanced analytics to do it.”

Not only can CGH tie together disparate sources of data to monitor their costs and outcomes, but they can also present that information to front-line staff—who can leverage it to make better decisions on the fly.

“Hospital staff have gone from having access to nothing to having access to everything, so it becomes about drilling down into the data to make the right assumptions about it,” Schaab notes. “We try and enable our leaders outside of finance to view and understand the data by providing as simple a presentation as possible.”


CGH Medical Center isn’t the only community organization using data analytics to help guide their staff toward making informed, strategic decisions. For community organizations leveraging a data and analytics platform, using cost and margin data to make better financial decisions, the challenge of reducing cost of care is becoming easier to manage. Moreso, they’re seeing reduction in cost variation while maintaining the high quality care they’ve provided their patients for years.

“In healthcare but especially in the community and rural hospital space,” Schaab says, “the biggest barrier to making an impact and reducing cost variation is the fear of diminishing quality. It’s always a challenge, but to reduce cost, we also need to drive process improvement.”

And that improvement means using data analytics to track what’s working and what provides an area of opportunity for hospitals to drive better margins.

The Importance of Data Sharing

In his final remarks, CGH Medical Center’s Chief Financial Officer noted the importance of sharing best practices and learning from the data of the industry. “We have to hone in on what’s affordable and what can help us nourish margins. It’s the right thing to do for the industry.

…the great thing is that hospitals and healthcare systems tend to share their data. It’s how we learn. We can all benefit from that.”

To learn more about how community and rural hospitals are leveraging data analytics and a synchronized platform to improve their margins and continue to provide high-quality patient care, read about how Davis Health System adopted a more sustainable budgeting process or schedule a one-on-one session with a member of our team.