The rapid progression of healthcare means that it’s more important than ever for hospitals to understand how they should evolve.
But even with abundant access to their own data, it’s often not the biggest priority for hospitals to engage in strategic planning, which could make all the difference in helping them to maximise growth and better serve the needs of their patient population.
Thanks to Stratasan’s software and services, it’s now easier for hospitals and healthcare systems to turn their data into intelligence and make data-based decisions that’ll help them grow strategically and stay competitive while keeping costs low.
In this episode of HealthRedesigned, we chat with Jason Moore, Founder and CEO of Stratasan. Based in Nashville, Stratasan assists over 700 hospitals across 40 states in the US with their strategic planning, management and growth through a combination of customised software and hands-on consulting.
Empowering healthcare systems to make better decisions
How did Stratasan start and what are you trying to solve?
Prior to Stratasan, I had no healthcare experience, but partnering with other advisers and advisory councils really filled that void. I came from a software background outside the industry, with a fresh lens and then leaning on those who spent their time in the industry as far as what problems existed before approaching those problems from a different angle.
We started around 2010, focusing on Nashville, Tennessee, a hub of the hospital systems space before branching out into riders like ambulatory surgery care and long-term acute care.
Looking at that from a local lens and then looking at my background, we identified a problem: a lot of strategic growth decisions in healthcare were being made on gut reactions and very little data and information. Historically in the healthcare space, access to data has been inefficient, but that continues to improve.
We looking at filling the gap with software and helping people access that information and intelligence to make better strategic decisions.
Could you tell us about the service side of what you do and how that ties into your digital product?
We don't really engage in traditional consulting where you're trading hours for dollars, instead, we do project work. A lot of times, there'll be questions that our applications aren't directly able to answer and we run research and development based on the questions. This has led to a lot of the products we've developed over the last eight years and feeds into our alternative approach to industry problems.
We’re a products company, first and foremost. Many of the people in the industry come at it from a consulting angle and then add products to supplement their consulting, whereas, we're the complete opposite of that. We’re a tried and true products company, but we’ve added the services side to supplement our products.
What's the intricacy of the problems you're trying to solve? Is it only US-focused and for hospitals?
It’s US focused and our primary market are hospitals and hospital systems. The key area we help them with is strategic growth. In the healthcare industry, that translates into serving your patient population better, understanding who you are in the marketplace, what your patient population looks like, who the other players in your market are, where you can best thrive and where you can best serve your population by filling gaps or increasing your services, for example.
So if I'm a hospital in Nashville, for example, what are some of the problems that I might be facing?
Nashville isn’t likely to have the same problems as most others as it’s a hub for the provider space itself. We currently work in 43 of the 50 states in the US and a real deviation between strategies is between the rural, suburban and urban markets. The problems and approaches are different and how you're going to solve those problems as a provider are definitely going to change.
In a rural area, for example, it may be access to care or a lack of what's called ‘healthcare inventory’—the convenience of care for a larger geography. Whereas in a metro area, you're often looking at very specific product lines and figuring out what’s being best served or not in the community and which service or product lines you can be most helpful with.
Dealing with an influx of data
You've got more and more data coming into the system now, compared to say, five years ago. How are hospitals adapting to this change?
Looking back 15 to 20 years ago, there was barely any data available to base strategic decisions on. Some people had figured out how to pull their own data and make some decisions, but from a landscape and competitive perspective, virtually nothing was available to make really good strategic decisions.
Moving into five years ago, data has obviously grown in focus and competition has increased in most areas. There’s been some shrinkage in certain areas like rural areas and they’ve had a hard time keeping inventory, but as they make those strategic decisions today, they’re starting with the data that’s available. We talk a lot about this with our customers: it's not always about having more data, but the right data that you need to make that best decision—a lot of times, it's in their own backyard.
Often, the best way to start is being able to effectively and efficiently use your own internal patient data.
What kind of data do you help hospitals track and base strategic decisions on?
Once a patient comes into the system, that's the data point that we're utilising most. So we're not in bed utilisation, nurse scheduling or efficient staffing. We're really looking at how do we help our customers best serve the patient population, whether that’s increasing their patient base or putting expansion efforts into better facilities like an urgent care or orthopaedic centre or perhaps a new freestanding ER to help make it more convenient for their patients to get the care they need.
A lot of what you’re describing seems to revolve around how hospitals can do more with the resources they have to become more profitable rather than competing with other hospitals.
It's definitely twofold. There are times where it's filling voids, but there are other times where it’s about competitiveness. We divide strategic growth decisions and information gathering for our client partners into three main buckets. The first one is the discovery phase where we understand what their patient population and catchment area looks like, the marketplace and where they stand in it, who their competitors are and how they’re trending from a particular service or product line.
From that, they choose where they want to grow, that could be a particular product line, service line or geographic focus. Once they’ve decided, we help them micro-target into that patient population. A lot of times in the US, patient catchment areas are very large and it's very difficult to deploy resources across the board, so we help our clients look for those pockets of the pertinent patient population for each individual effort.
This leads to the second phase: execution and helping the marketing teams understand what they need to do. We help them identify how to reach those pockets and speak to them, which physicians are already serving from a primary care or specialist perspective and who can we partner with to service that patient population?
That then leads to the third and main bucket: tracking. Did we make the right decisions to best serve our patient population? Tracking kind of feeds the loop, which leads to one of our big initiatives: helping hospitals realise that strategic planning is not a one-time, annual event, which has been the case historically. This is an ongoing effort and work that we're all working towards as the departments work together.
The business of hospitals
A lot of people probably aren’t aware that a hospital actually operates as a business. It's interesting to hear it approached in a sort of business-centric and strategic way.
One of the big trends today is the consumerism of healthcare and that’s separate from the business that we are. There’s a lot more control that we as consumers of healthcare have today, a lot more information that we have at our fingertips and a lot more information that we're providing knowingly or unknowingly with wearables, for example. We're basically giving away data constantly, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I think that all of these pieces can be used towards a greater good and businesses on the other side can utilise that data. In the end, a hospital or hospital systems growth really depends on how they're best serving their patient population.
Do you think that one of the upcoming challenges is perhaps understanding how to integrate consumer data into operating a hospital and delivering care?
I think that consumer-based data is great information, but it's going to be awhile before it's integrated enough across the population and is readily available to any particular organisation or individual to make really strong, informed, strategic decisions without a proliferation of that data. You can take positives from that, but it can also be quite dangerous when you're making tens of millions of dollars of decisions that are going to dramatically impact how you can care for that patient population.
We’re already seeing that the conversation around how much data is out there becoming a confusion point. It can sometimes be difficult for these individuals who are working very hard on taking care of these patient populations to the best extent that they can, to focus on what really matters. It's really easy to get distracted by some things that may or may not have applicability to your job to be done today.
Do you think that perhaps people almost too concerned about handling the big data on the patient side of things right now?
It does sometimes turn into a distraction because it's a concern instead of getting laser-focused on what's in front of you and what you can have an effect on today. That doesn't necessarily mean today, today, but really in the next 18 months to three years. A lot of times, we see people getting bogged down in five and 10-year projections in the healthcare space.
I think one of the conversations we have a lot is if you look at today, how effectively did anybody predict where we were going to be five or 10 years ago? I think five years ago we were all convinced that by today we would absolutely be a value-based system in the US—and that's simply not the case. When you get into those five and 10-year projections, it can be more of a distraction than a help.