Business analytics: Cut through clutter

Friday, April 26, 2013

The term “business analytics” and “big data” have emerged as the soup du jour. While it might sound complex, the reality is analytics is an attempt to make sense of the mountains of data pouring in from a myriad of sources. Without the ability to distill this information, the data overload becomes too overwhelming, making it all meaningless. In response, companies across industries are beginning to grasp the importance of analytics and how it can be applied to help improve their businesses.  

The healthcare industry is at the beginning of a sea change, and competitive bidding is leading the way. No one holds a crystal ball into the future of how this will all work out. One thing is for sure: Our market is changing and what you knew in the past may not be a good indicator of the future. HME owners are looking for answers to keep their businesses moving forward. The fact is, many of these answers may lay within their own businesses in the form of untapped business intelligence trapped within a mountain of information. 

Business analytics provide HME owners the ability to understand where their businesses have been, where they are today, and forecast where they will be in the future. The reporting found in most business management systems today will tell you where you have been, but not where you are going. Business analytics can empower HME owners to visualize their entire workflow on a single display to immediately understand bottlenecks and take corrective action as necessary. This allows them to measure and evaluate key operating relationships to plot future outcomes and make more informed decisions, while improving regulatory compliance. The result is significantly improved competitiveness and profitability.  

In short, business analytics is diagnostic and predictive tool made up of three components: combined databases, data visualization and predictive analytics. Each of these entities can be a useful business aid by itself, but combined can create an impactful tool that exposes the real value-creation opportunities of a business.

Combined databases

By combining their respective databases, businesses can have the ability to draw upon information from multiple sources simultaneously. Many reporting tools allow users to dissect a single database, but only a few meld these databases to gain a holistic view of overall performance. A business analytics tool is far more efficient than copying and pasting into an Excel spreadsheet, because it automatically combines information from multiple sources.

Data visualization

Most users have come to accept that not only will every data source have its own stand-alone report, but it will most likely be difficult to follow and it will apply multiple interpretations. Businesses are beginning to embrace dashboards as a way to visualize business performance in a streamlined fashion. True data visualization is dynamic and provides users with a vast array of options, including charts, tables and data roll-up.

Predictive analytics

Having a sound grasp of past performance will always be helpful, particularly if good data is coupled with comprehensive visualization tools. Statistical analysis and predictive analysis are two elements that enable users to identify patterns or trends that drive business optimization and predict future outcomes. Predictive analytics allows the business owner to scenario plan the future and immediately understand business outcomes based on cause-and-effect relationships. If you are considering payer mix changes, new retail expansions, product mix changes, the effects of competitive bidding with or without a contract award, business analytics will help you cut through the clutter and understand the impacts.

Every two years, the amount of information that an average organization stores literally doubles. This gives managers a very simple choice: Get buried under the avalanche of raw data or find ways to make it work to your advantage.

Gregg Timmons is president and CEO of MedAct Software. He can be reached at or 800-326-0314.