Impressions and Lessons Learned from the 2015 Health Analytics Summit powered by Health Catalyst

Impressions and Lessons Learned from the 2015 Health Analytics Summit powered by Health Catalyst

This is the first time I’ve had an opportunity to attend the Health Analytics Summit, and the second year that Health Catalyst has hosted it. The event took place at the Grand America Hotel, in Salt Lake City, Utah. I’d like to thank Health Catalyst for choosing this location as it was very well delivered with high attention to detail by very courteous hotel staff.  Attendance was sold out at just over 900 people and the energy from everyone was palpable. Just listening to the comments from other attendees during the event, it was easy to see many people went home with new understandings and a better grasp on where we are in the healthcare analytics world.


If I were to describe every keynote speaker in detail, and every takeaway from the breakout sessions, this would be more of a book, and less of a blog. I’ll lay out the most resonant points that stuck with me, although there were many, many more that my fellow Galeneers and attendees shared.

Day one was started with a keynote speech by Health Catalyst’s CEO Dan Burton. The kickoff was a warm welcome and prepared everyone for the days ahead. Dan also detailed some of the findings that health systems are facing today and the lessons learned by many along the way as they become more data-driven enterprises.

  • There is a shortage of analysts, resulting in a high demand for people with analytical thinking skills.
  • Getting buy-in across the organization, from leadership and staff to providers and nursing professionals is the key to success in any data-driven endeavor.

The second keynote speaker of the day was Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets GM and Managing Director of Basketball Operations. Daryl took us through his experience and success using data about players to find, recruit, train and enable players to become a serious force in the NBA. Using analytics, the Rockets were able to study the strengths and weaknesses of each player on the team and use those insights to beat the Lakers repeatedly even though the Lakers had the ability to recruit more highly paid players. Daryl even shared with us his history with analytics, starting in high school, including his year book photo. The presentation was heavy on details, but conveyed with some humor mixed in resulting in an overall fantastic delivery.

  • In basketball the two for one principle was proven to be the best option when applying years of statistical data. It’s better to take two bad shots than one good shot, every day, every time, in every game. Managers disagree, but they shouldn’t be the ones making the call, it should be left to those in the game, in the precious seconds that it matters to make the shots.
  • Data gives you confidence. When making decisions others will challenge, having data-driven insights to support your decision and help refute arguments.
  • Be careful how you use the data. Build confidence and experience, it can be used incorrectly.

Since I have a background in business management and an avid curiosity in different management styles, I found the next speaker to be fascinating and a very powerful speaker. My fellow Galeneers that attended the event all agree that Jim Collins (Author of Built to Last, Good to Great, and Great by Choice) was a potent speaker and left a lasting impression. In fact, many of Jim’s points resonated throughout the remainder of the summit. Jim’s team researched not simply what made a company great, but given the same circumstances, what differentiates two companies when one is successful and one fails.

  • In healthcare, as in business, good isn’t enough. We have to be GREAT.
  • Set your bhag (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) so big it’s humbling and perceptibly impossible. It does not have to be obtainable, but you must embrace the challenge with humility.
  • Some of the best leaders in the largest companies in the world are not charismatic. Charisma does not define a great leader, instead it may cripple them with over confidence. Great leaders exhibit intelligence, hard work and humility.
  • Don’t confuse values with practices.
  • Harness the 20 mile march. Every day, every time, with relentless dedication and perseverance.

I could go further into that keynote as it struck many chords within my soul. It motivated me to embrace humility and a healthy paranoia to take ideas and transform them into solutions although the journey will be grueling and will likely encounter opposition along the way.  But I won’t. I’ll just say this, take an opportunity to read more about the 20 mile march and how that might apply to your current situation.

The breakout sessions and round table discussions were very well thought out and offered a peek into the experiences many health systems had, including the troubles faced along the way and the various lessons learned. Some sessions were more about the technology and where we are going, and some were focused on past experience.

  • Put the right people in the right place at the right time.
  • Big data is not an easily definable term. Many health systems like to believe they have big data, but it turns out, it’s more or less average.
  • Big data and the technology around it is coming. Right now, it’s being researched and many companies and systems are evaluating how it will work with long term goals. We should see it become more prevalent in the next three years.
  • Value based care isn’t just a new payment model. It’s the right thing to do.
  • Community hospitals face intense pressure and must embrace a data-driven culture to remain solvent and provide quality care for the people depending on them for a future.
  • Data governance is best when applied throughout the entire organization, ensuring everyone has a stake and the power of data isn’t locked away or controlled by a single operating unit.
  • Physicians need to be not only engaged, they need to be champions of data and best practices. Pushing cohorts and staff to do the right thing, every time, no matter the circumstances.

One of the final keynote speakers was Ed Catmull (Co-founder of Pixar, President of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios). This was a fascinating session as it focused primarily on the art. Like animation, science is an art. Deriving insights from data isn’t easy and it takes people with an analytical mindset to look at data and recognize trends and paint a picture of actionable insights from that data. Ed also focused on what he refers to as the “Brain Trust”, a group of people with various backgrounds that meet to solve a problem or set of problems. These brain trusts are designed and assembled for each problem and group of problems, and once the problem is solved, the brain trust is dissolved. This is something I have studied in depth and hearing how Pixar applied this methodology was very interesting.

  • Creativity is the process by which we solve problems.
  • It’s easy to state your goals, it’s hard to stand to them.
  • Failure isn’t a necessary evil, it’s a necessary consequence
  • Protect the crew that works on a new idea that didn’t work, new ideas are fragile.
  • Separate decision making from the creative process.
  • If you give a good idea to a bad team, they will screw it up. If you give a bad idea to a good team they will fix it or throw it away and come up with a new idea.

This was a great event, and it was a pleasure to learn how health systems are tackling a multitude of issues by embracing a data-driven culture in order to improve outcomes and reduce cost. One final great take away is:

There is no silver bullet. It takes a lot of work, from every facet of every organization, every day, to be successful. And when you have become great, don’t stop. Keep improving.

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