'There's no shortage of raw data'

Stratasan President Marshall Martin talks analytics, a competitive health care environment and data's user experience

In May, Nashville-based health care data and analytics company Stratasan named former PureSafety and Juris executive Marshall Martin as its president. In the process, he joined a leadership team spearheaded by co-founders Jason Moore and Tod Fetherling.

Martin met with Post reporter Emily Kubis to share his perspectives on health care data and the company's future.

How do companies like Stratasan turn raw data turn into actionable analysis for executives? 

First of all, there's no shortage of raw data. In fact, the data is getting bigger and faster than people can even consume it. We've come from a period of insufficient data or technology to process it to a period in which technology has advanced enough to free the data for use. Now it feels like a situation of how to stop an avalanche of data. The intention is to drive faster decisions with more meaningful outcomes. Actionable data is not having so much data that you're paralyzed by it, but having data that directly lines up with what you need it for. An added value of what we do is that the people who are designing and delivering technology and services at Stratasan are the same people who have been data users. So it's expertise combined with data that create great outcomes for our customers. We know what that end-user needs, so we're able to serve it in a way that's more than just mounds of data.  

What kind of analytics do stakeholders seem most interested in?

Market share, which can be anything from how to improve patient volumes to infrastructure decisions and demands. Health care systems are trying to make decisions in a competitive environment where they don't have a surplus of extra money and time so they have to use both wisely. We have the ability to carve up the data and apply it to different models, like projecting physician demands, decisions around the building of a freestanding emergency department, or where you might target certain areas to put an urgent care clinic. We could tell you based on traffic volumes or commute times where it makes sense to invest in infrastructure that is going to result in the best possible position to capture market share and improve revenues.

What does the health care industry have to do to become more receptive to analytics?

A lot of that comes back to your comfort level or desire to use data, but it's often not about what you want to do, but what you have to do. If you're a hospital C-Level executive in a rural area/small market without an analytics team or technology to provide data, you're forced to find alternative solutions to meet those demands. It's that competitive of an environment and the desire to stay competitive must be strong. Our position is that we're really that decision-maker's best friend. We want you to be comfortable with the data, and we want to reach all those C-level executives who need our help. We still work with people every day who still use gut instinct to make decisions when sometimes you have to look no further than data. So we are educating the market on the value data can provide.

What's your response to data manipulation? Can analytics teams make data say what they want it to say?

Expertise is a blend of reasoning through data analysis combined with experience and feet on the street about what's going on in your business. It's data plus expertise that equals the right outcome. I could manipulate data. But if I present it to someone who has expertise, they're going to see right through that manipulation. You might get through a few stages with erroneous data, but the more you go upstream, you're going to run the risk of loss of integrity.

Privacy concerns have kept health care lagging behind other sectors in data usage. Are widespread privacy concerns legitimate?

Privacy concerns are certainly legitimate and governed by laws and policies regarding how you can handle and protect it. When you talk about personal health information or HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)concerns, you have to add to that the fear of a breach through technology. Health care had to move slower in adoption and advancement of technology because of the sensitivity of the data. About the time the market starts to get comfortable, you have something like a credit card breach at a major retailer or another case of identity theft. While not health care data, it’s still a reminder that a failure of a system not designed to reduce the risk of breach can exist.

While data protection has moved to highly secured environments, those individual cases will always exist. But there are compliance rules and regulations that put us under strict guidance to do what is reasonably expected in the care of data. And, if you do have a breach, you have to be the whistleblower yourself, and you have to do it in a defined time period. Everyone affected must be notified. Then there has to be a root cause analysis of why it happened followed by an actionable plan to show you did your due diligence and [that] it will never happen again.

Is there a relationship between the pushes for actionable data at the executive level and for more health care data transparency for consumers? 

I think they're related in that if you've got two separate paths, as one raises, the other has to raise. If I'm a hospital executive and the market becomes more transparent — i.e. companies that are popping up to provide health care cost data to consumers — then I need to raise my game to be a step ahead of what consumers are seeing and adjust accordingly. The most advanced hospitals will stay ahead of price transparency and use it as another decision point. And they can, because they capture that data before the consumer sees it. However, just because it’s published to the consumer doesn’t mean that consumers understand or are using it. It’s still a very complex scenario. There's probably a business within the business there by providing personal consulting to households that explains pricing information and how to help them make the best decisions for their high-deductible health care spend. That's another example of where the data has outrun the ability to use it. 

What will be the next trend in data analytics? 

Continuing to build upon the user experience. Our ways of thinking have been changed because of mobile technology. Technology lives in everything we do now. Think of how we're trained to utilize a smartphone app or how we interact with social media, and how that actually has an impact on how people use software. Because of the simplicity applied to a user interface, that carries over into how people perceive technology and how it's being used. Mobile technology has forced us to mold how we deliver technology and information, and it's forced us to get to the answer faster. It's all in the presentation. We will be highly successful to the extent that we can make big data small data, used in a way that feels comfortable to the user.

What's next for Stratasan?

I see Stratasan as a market leader. We lie awake at night just figuring out how to move fast enough to take advantage of this red-hot market. The demand is there [and] we have a great product, so we're just focused on speed to market. It's our desire to capture as much of the market as we can in the shortest amount of time. We feel that we're well suited for success. The founders and the team that’s here today has done a phenomenal job to get the company where it is today. We're hiring software engineers now, and it won't be the first or last opening for positions in our company. Growth is coming fast.