How to Strategically Manage Analyst Overload and Master Your Work Queue

How to Strategically Manage Analyst Overload and Master Your Work Queue

By Taylor Smith and Anusha Achukola

As we saw in last week’s blog post, many hospitals and healthcare systems are challenged with having too many analyst needs and too few analysts to complete all the work. As an in-house analyst—working on your own or as a part of a team—you are likely facing a long queue of requests and wishing you could somehow find a better solution to keep up with the demand.

As the amount of data that healthcare organizations collect continues to grow at a rapid rate, the volume of information you and your team will be tasked with analyzing will only continue to grow as well. Without the right tools and workflows, you will continue to struggle to balance it all. 


In last week’s post we outlined a few suggestions for how to overcome the ongoing healthcare analyst shortage. In this post, we’ll address this same issue—but from your perspective.

Specifically, if you are an analyst buried under a pile of reports to be done, we’ve got some practical ways you can update your workflow and manage your work queue—getting more done in less time and with fewer errors.


Step 1: Getting Started

The key to your most productive workflow is to begin with the end in mind.

Proper setup and review of the task to be done before you get started will mean a smoother and more enjoyable process for both you and the requesting party. Begin your workflow process with this series of questions:

  • What final product is the requester expecting?
  • What data would they like you to use?
  • What method would they like the deliverable to be produced in (PowerPoint, Excel, Word)?
  • What is the purpose of the product or deliverable that you are developing?
  • Do you have all the necessary data already or will you need to coordinate the delivery of it? If so, this impacts the timeline.
  • What is their expectation on delivery date? Is this reasonable given your current workload and does anything stand in the way of meeting their deadline?
  • Consider other factors like time zones, important meetings, strategic planning goals, and budgets.

It's important to communicate with the requesting party early and often. If their deadline expectations are realistic, let them know you’ll be able to complete the request by the suggested date. If not, discuss why and whether the timeline can be adjusted.

The goal of these set-up steps is to make sure everyone is in agreement with the finalized timeline and goals. With alignment, there will be fewer surprises and frustrations as the project progress. Doing your homework on the front end ensures you won’t get to the end of the project to find out that what you delivered was not in-line with the requester’s expectations.  

A final note: as you prepare to begin, make plans to check in with the requesting party periodically to ensure things are on track. Consider having time set aside for the Quality Assurance (QA) process at the end. This means, build in time to have the product complete a few days in advance of the deadline—that way your report is still on time if you find errors and need to make a few final fixes.


Step 2: Producing the Report

Now it’s time to get things rolling! This next phase of the process should start with a checklist of items to work through. Build your checklist with these considerations in mind:

  • Are you set-up to provide everything that has been requested?
  • Do you have all your data in order?
  • Is there documentation of the request you can refer to as you go?

Make sure to have these details finalized when you begin so you're not asking questions in the middle of producing the report.

Next, outline a game plan with a set timeline and benchmarks for when certain phases of the project need to be completed. This will ensure you don’t forget any important details and that the project stays on schedule.

If you find yourself spinning your wheels or confused about direction as you build your report, don’t hesitate to ask a team member or even the requesting party for clarification. As stated before, the key is to communicate early and often—don't wait around for the answer to come to you. Take the initiative to go find it!

Regularly check for formatting and consistency. If your project makes its way to your Executive Leadership team, you will want to ensure your work looks well put together and intentional. After all, it is your work and many people around the organization could end up reviewing it.

Additionally, always make sure you are correctly identifying and documenting your sources. These will be used with the final production and will be notated on the final product. Sources need to be reputable and easy to document.


Step 3: Quality Assurance (QA)

This is possibly the most important step in the process as it is the last time your eyes will see the product before delivering it to the requester. Someone outside of the production process should always be a part of QA, as they have an outside perspective on the project—aka fresh eyes.

The most critical point of consideration during QA—your data must be correct! So be on the lookout for data errors. It helps if there is documentation of the data pulled and the formulas used. This is a way to "show your work" and make it easy for data to be referenced during QA.

Always check sourcing, formulas, and reports used to make sure everything is as it should be. Double check to make sure your time frame matches what was requested and that the aesthetics (colors, fonts, page numbers, imagery, etc.) meet brand standards for consistency and ease of use.

If errors are found, document them. If an outside person helped build the report, they need to be able to understand what they need to fix and what should be in its place. It can be helpful for you, and others who will be making corrections, if errors are presented in a checklist format. This will make it easy to mark off the items that have been resolved.


Step 4: Delivery

After all is said and done, it’s now time for the project to be sent to the requesting party.

What's the best way to do this? Email? Encrypted delivery? That depends on a few factors.

  • Does the project have sensitive data? If so, then  you need to be careful on the method of sending that you choose. There could be security implications if proper steps are not taken.
  • Was it requested for the report to be delivered in a certain format? If so, this could also affect how it should be delivered.
Make sure other team members are included in the delivery process for accountability purposes. Also consider "copying" yourself—or otherwise including yourself on the delivery—to ensure you receive it and you also see your end product through the eyes of the recipients. It's nice to have an audit trail if something goes wrong during delivery. Technical problems do happen!


Step 5: Follow-up

After the project has been sent, it's a good idea to check in and ensure the requesting party has received and is able to access the report. You want to be sure that all your hard work has been received and that it’s meeting expectations. Consider these questions as a part of your follow-up:

  • Do they want a follow-up call scheduled?
  • Is the end product what they requested?
  • Do they need anything additional added to their initial request?
  • Are there questions or clarifications needed?

Follow up and find out. You want to move on to your next project with the reassurance that your past work is truly complete.


Step 6: Closing the Loop

At the end of this process, you will ultimately be judged on the quality of your product, your communication, and the timeliness of your delivery. Your hard work boils down to these 3 important factors. Keep them in mind during the entire process and you’ll be set up for success.

After the requesting party has confirmed their satisfaction, make sure to keep the door open for other possible projects in the future. You never know what else you can help them with.


The Takeaway

The work of an analyst is often tedious and always detail-oriented. By establishing a good workflow, you can more efficiently and effectively tackle your long queue of requests.

In addition to the suggestions listed in this post, you may also want to consider onboarding a software tool to aid in managing your workflow. Having a tool specifically designed for report building can make it easier for you to run simple reports and can open up time for you and your team to focus the majority of your time on in-depth analysis. There are a number of tools on the market that could make your life easier. To identify the right one for you, start with the following steps:

  • Assess the biggest bottlenecks and drains on your time
  • Make a list of reports requested of you most frequently and prioritize this list by importance, relevance across the organization, and difficulty of execution
  • Survey the software options on the market and determine which would be the most beneficial to your organization and take the largest burden off of your analyst team
  • Choose a software solution and put it to work!

Stratasan’s solution to the overworked / neverending analyst cue analyst problem is Launch Pathway. Equipped with a tool like Launch Pathway, as well as a workflow process like the one outlined in this post, your overwhelm can finally become a thing of the past. Important reports can easily be completed in minutes, not hours or days. Launch Pathway also provides mapping functionality which can add compelling visuals to support your numbers.

Contact Sean Conway for a demonstration today. Sean will demonstrate how Launch Pathway can bring an end to your ongoing analyst overwhelm and make your day-to-day job much easier.


Article by Taylor Smith, Senior Health Strategist and Anusha Achukola, Healthcare Analyst for Stratasan.

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