Understanding health care analytics — including how to derive insights and leverage them for the benefit of the union — is an often overlooked but vital skill for board members. There have never been more ways to collect and use health care data, and cultivating insights from health care analysis has the potential to increase the cost-effectiveness of a health plan while improving overall member health outcomes.
Using Big Data in Health Care
In order to be in a position to take advantage of health care analytics, union boards have to perform an in-depth review of aggregate data about member health and challenges, benefits usage and care outcomes. This information will reveal how you can improve member health and increase savings.
There isn't one right way to review data — it depends on the makeup and needs of the union, how much information is available and what the board's goal for the data is, among other things. For example, summary plan data indicates how members are using their benefits. As underused services are identified, leverage this information to adapt the plan structure, choosing to drop certain benefits or increase outreach to members to explain the benefits and determine why they're going unused.
Having collected data about members' feelings toward specific benefits like wellness programs or voluntary insurance plans can allow boards to tailor their messages to address any misunderstandings, direct members toward service providers or explain the data behind specific services' usage. To further improve health care outcomes, the board can use data analytics to develop wellness programs based on common ailments members might be facing, for example joint pain. Combined with targeted communication, these programs can engage members in personalized ways, encouraging them to take control of their health. Ensuring that the benefits offered align with the needs of members and are cost-effective also builds greater trust between the board and its members.
Improving Data Analysis Skills
Board members don't become world-class data analysts overnight. Learning to use health care data takes time and effort — but there's no need to struggle through pages of numbers waiting for inspiration to hit. Here are some solid, proven strategies for improving your data analysis skills.
- Find a mentor. Search for someone, either locally or online, who understands data and health care analytics and can provide guidance and resources.
- Head to the library. Not only do many libraries offer access to data analysis experts and classes, but a book on the basic principles of statistics can lay the groundwork for confident and effective analysis.
- Take advantage of online resources. Platforms like YouTube and Skillshare provide video-based training on topics including statistics, data analytics and analytical tools. There are also a variety of data and analytics podcasts to keep interested board members informed of new strategies and unfolding techniques.
- Practice communication skills. Being able to analyze data often isn't enough. You should be able to communicate your findings to the rest of the board — and do it in such a way that those not well-versed in statistics can still understand what the numbers show. Practice by summarizing — verbally or in writing — data sets for a nontechnical audience.
Health care analytics can help build a carefully tailored insurance plan and encourage more intentional benefit usage. And far from being just a one-off project, the skills involved in analyzing data can be brought in again and again to save money, increase efficiency, build a more loyal community of members and improve the union in countless other ways.
Heather Kerrigan started her career in journalism at Governing magazine, reporting on state and local politics and policy, with a specific focus on public workforce, environment, health care, education and technology issues. Prior to co-founding River Horse Communications, Heather offered freelance editorial services to a variety of outlets, including serving as volume editor and lead author for SAGE Publications' Historic Documents series and editor-in-chief of The Kanter Journal. Heather also blogs for two government-focused publications, GovLoop and NEOGOV, covering issues of importance to federal employees. Heather is the author of the book Retire Rich With Your 401(k) Plan. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from The George Washington University.