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Data Drives Innovations Both Small and Large for UHS

December 05, 2020

Matt Peterson, executive vice president and Behavioral Health Division president at UHS, envisions a future for the field that is headed toward a medical-behavioral integration with digital disruption. Today, he sees a rapid pace of change within the field with more entrants in the field, payers regulating costs, and private equity investing more dollars.

To keep pace, providers will need to innovate, and during a session presented on Saturday at the Treatment Center Investment & Valuation Retreat, Peterson provided attendees with a peek behind the curtain at how UHS is approaching its future.

Change comes at multiple levels, Peterson said. At UHS, innovations are divided into two categories: “Little I” improvements, the smaller, high-volume continual improvements to existing operations, and their “Big I” counterparts which are more long-term, big picture shifts. The smaller improvements should provide an obvious return on investment and rapid financial payback. They are what Peterson calls “just do it” opportunities. Larger endeavors go beyond the orbit of an organization’s core business to disrupt how the company executes its behavioral services.

Along the same lines of the “Little” and “Big” I’s, UHS is a “two-speed” organization, Peterson said. One one level, the organization focuses on optimizing and improving the dependability of its core business. A higher gear is needed to keep pace with digital disruption in the field. This requires a level of agility to match emerging competitors and changes to the industry as a whole.

And above all in the innovation process, data is the driving force, Peterson said.

“The way we think about innovation ultimately leads to data,” Peterson said. “Data is paramount to how we think about our business moving forward. In the behavioral health space, we live in a very data-rich environment. How do we harness that data to move forward?”

There are incremental steps toward approaching data that each organization should consider en route to creating game-changing advantages, Peterson said:

  • Rationalize the data you have and how you can use it
  • Optimize your data operations and how and where information flows within your organization
  • Consider how you use Big Data and systems to balance workloads from what was to what can be
  • Drive architectural and archetypal changes within your organization

Beyond UHS’s approach to data, Peterson said one of the first questions he considers when looking at potential acquisition targets is analyzing how the target company in question uses its data, in areas such as patient satisfaction rates, for example, to make critical decisions.

Ultimately, when it comes to innovating, “it’s about creating that mindset, that culture, that methodology and support structure within your organization to focus on innovation to achieve long-term value,” Peterson said.

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