An explosion of healthcare data has created an infinite need for clinical and patient-based data analytics. The roles and expectations of a financial analyst have been transformed from one who answers business intelligence questions to one who publishes data in the form of visualizations that allow hospital leadership to drill down into the data, and discover relationships and effect organizational change. Data is powerful. There's always one side that says, "I think this is happening because …," but without data, who knows? By collectively bringing all the data together we can get past the myths and to the truth for performance improvement.

At Regions, we find ourselves with laptops in meetings not to take notes but to access information quickly and to work with our clinical partners during the meeting – not a month later or three months later. The ability to access the data and let your clinical partners know there is an issue that they can target to meet a need – that is the role of a financial analyst today. All teams need quick access data to be a strong healthcare facility.

In the past, financial analysts at Regions Hospital were human calculators, tied to their desks, mining data to answer specific questions by accessing general ledger and volume data and later patient utilization and cost data. We would deliver specific reports for specific users – variations of same report each week, month, quarter or year. That all changed with EMRs. EMRs resulted in an explosion of data and variables. And that data has relationships to other organizational data. The variables were further multiplied by data needed to succeed in value-based reimbursement, including industry-based data analysis, consumer-based data analysis, quality measurement and outcomes reporting, ACO reporting, and so much more.

Into this explosion of healthcare data the analysts steps. Financial analysts are often used as the first resource to extract and summarize information when someone asks, "Is this true?" or "Is this really what happened?" But in the current environment, the volume of data and variables is so high, the analyst cannot fetch and juggle all of it for others. It's too much. In their new role, analysts are instead the bridges to make the associations between data, to listen to what others want, discern how they want it, build or direct the building of data visualization tools, and teach others how to use the tools.

The data and facts can be published and made accessible directly to the user via intuitive displays. The tools need to associate the data – to put finance data next to satisfaction data, next to quality and disparities data – to see how they relate. We don't run reports much anymore; we bring together data from different systems, associate it, and publish it to give the leadership the flexibility to get what they want.

The diverse team we use to develop these tools includes data experts, clinical experts and financial experts. This diversity ensures the data we collect will factor in all the relevant parts of the business, and the information will be delivered in a way that informs decisions most effectively. Comprehensive and fast mobile tools provide ongoing access to data and information. As a result, Regions has dispelled internal myths and achieved traction on some real practical clinical and operational barriers by drilling down in the data in flexible ways. With these tools, users can understand the data and variances without needing analyst intermediaries to juggle the data for them. This is the new role of the financial analyst.

You can learn more about the data culture and specific data visualization tools built by financial analysts at Regions Hospital in this healthcare analytics on-demand webinar.