Managing worklists: The promise of embedded analytics

April 28, 2021 / By Steve Austin

Where I live in South Texas, we usually don’t get much of a spring; summer comes early and stays late. Consequently, you really only have to touch the thermostat maybe twice a year. This spring, however, has been different, with several unexpectedly cool weeks mixed in with the typical onset of heat. I’ve ended up adjusting my AC thermostat frequently—which has me thinking about embedded analytics and managing HIM coding and CDI worklists. It’s true! Let me explain…

My AC thermostat not only tells me what the inside temperature is, but also gives me the features to adjust it—warmer or colder depending on the need. This is such basic, expected functionality we rarely think about it, but if my AC system ran like traditional health information systems, my springtime workflow would be much different. I would have to log in to my analytics system to run a report to find out what the inside temperature is (assuming the report exists). Then, based on that report, I’d go to another system to set what the desired temperature should be. Later, I would need to go back to my reporting tool to see if my adjustments were having the desired effect. Why? Because the analytics and the worklist tools aren’t connected, leading to lots of extra steps.

What has me excited about embedded analytics is that solutions are being built to bring analytics and workflow together. As a manager, if you see a problem, you want to know about it and fix it right away. Or, even better, as a manager you want to make sure that things are running smoothly as expected so that you can engage further with your teams on more complex tasks.

Embedded analytics come in all forms, shapes and sizes, but basically this approach provides statistical information side-by-side with features or tools that allow you to set things up or to do work, so that you can make informed decisions or take actions faster. This approach goes even further than a dashboard, although dashboards that compile insights from multiple systems are incredibly useful.

An embedded analytic feature is typically focused on the task at hand—like a thermostat. For example, a worklist tool might provide data to a coder about how many records have been coded that day in addition to worklist functionality of starting coding work. Or a CDI manager might have an embedded analytics view of all pending queries to physicians, with the ability to look into the account details with a single click. No need to run a report; the information is right there, ready for you to take action on it (or not).

Smarter systems anticipate the needs of users, giving them the information they need and the functionality to take immediate action.

Of course, deeper and broader analytics are absolutely necessary. I don’t yet have the expectation that my thermostat is going to be connected to the weather forecast for the week or month so that I never have to change my settings (and even if it did, I’d want the ability to override those features anyway), but maybe soon?

Steve Austin is innovation manager for the 3M 360 Encompass System.

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