Whitney Palmer

Healthcare. Politics. Family.

Business Intelligence: Key to a Hospital’s Sustained Success

Published in the Aug. 10, 2011 Billian’s HealthData/Porter Research Hub e-newsletter

By Whitney L.J. Howell

Good patient outcomes might be the goal of healthcare, but the byproduct of these efforts is an avalanche of data. As healthcare reform implementation marches forward, providers are under increasing pressure to use collected information to improve quality and drive down costs.

But for an industry focused on diagnoses and plans of care for multiple service lines, aggregating, analyzing and repurposing patient data doesn’t come naturally. Some providers have, however, found a way to use these records to pinpoint spots for quality improvement, potential cost savings and enhanced patient care.

As a result, they are on target to abide by the mandates of the 2009 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and are better prepared for the advent of health information exchange (HIE) and accountable care organizations  (ACOs). They credit their successes with business intelligence (BI) solutions.

Make it Meaningful
Whether it’s a tool to create a cost-effective and efficient work place or one that measures physician performance through key indicators and metrics, BI solutions endeavor to help hospitals make decisions that will keep them competitive within the industry. Simply putting a BI system in place isn’t enough, however. Using these tools well requires a strong partnership between provider and vendor.

“In this reform era, business intelligence has given healthcare organizations a critical understanding of their performance in both cost and quality at both the individual encounter and episodes of care levels,” says Ken Lawonn, senior vice president of strategy and technology at Alegent Health, a faith-based health ministry that operates 11 facilities in Nebraska and southwestern Iowa. “In doing so, it’s useful to get outside expertise to assist you in developing your strategy and plan.”

According to Lawonn, Alegent is laying the groundwork for using BI technologies. The health system is currently developing its data warehouse  – a repository for storing, integrating and, at a later date, accessing patient information. Its nascent data governance model and executive steering committee will help determine who in the system owns the data and how best to use it as an asset.

In addition to useful technology, Lawonn says providers must develop the data management, data administration, and business analytics skills that, to date, healthcare as an industry has been slow to adopt.

Other members of the industry, such as Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, are using medical and drug claims data, as well as provider information, to identify best practices opportunities for cutting costs and improving operations.

Lean on the Experts
Under the ACO model, set to launch in early 2012, facilities and providers will be equally responsible for patient outcomes. For this goal to become a reality, all parties must share information freely to enhance the care provided and avoid duplicating procedures that waste money and resources.

Electronic health records (EHR) will make this cooperation much easier. As the database responsible for storing patient information from all service lines, EHRs hold the details providers need to make system-wide decisions as ACOs, says Ken Perez, Senior Vice President for Marketing at MedeAnalytics, a California-based company that develops and delivers performance-management solutions to hospitals, physicians and payers. These records also play a role in supporting HIEs in the effort to limit costs, errors and delays in care.

Delving into data through EHRs will allow hospitals to set benchmarks for measures they wish to track. As talk of cost cutting and reducing Medicare reimbursement continues, Perez explains, it will be increasingly important for providers to show how well they are performing.

Larger hospitals can choose to build their own BI solutions, including a data warehouse and report templates, but purchasing a system from a BI vendor can make the process easier.

“Providers don’t need to do all the work themselves,” Perez says. “A vendor can deliver the software they need to stay on top of any measures they want to track, such as outcomes for cardiac patients. The prebuilt report analytics and performance management can easily be considered a long-term investment.”

Buy-In Essential to Successful Implementation
Having the proper technology in place is essential, but it’s only part of the battle. Hospitals and providers must have a plan before they can turn volumes of disparate data into actionable information, according to Tom Simas, Managing Director for Arizona-based BI vendor Midas+ Solutions, a Xerox company.

“The most important thing for a client to succeed is to have the engagement of the leadership at the top,” he says. “Without that buy-in, it’s possible to spend time and resources learning a technology and then have it go nowhere. And the best way to get that support is to show how a BI solution can provide quantifiable data that will help you achieve your objectives.”

For example, a hospital can use BI to gather and analyze outcomes data for all the diabetic patients seen annually in the facility. Using the technology to create a bell curve allows providers to study why some patients responded exceptionally well and why others did not. This knowledge, Simas says, will not only help providers optimize the quality of care, but can also help them eliminate the costs of treatments that don’t work.

It’s also important for providers to select a BI solution that everyone can use, he adds. With quality no longer being the sole charge of one department under the ACO model, these tools can support providers and facilities in the effort to share responsibility for patient outcomes.

Future Thinking Critical to Success
So far, most BI solutions have focused on retrospective analysis of collected data. As patterns and trends in care and outcomes begin to appear, however, these tools will have a more real-time impact.

“I believe these technologies will be increasingly applied to the analysis of the effectiveness of care both retrospectively and at the point of care,” Lawonn says. “This will help identify best practices in care, as well as give care givers more assistance at the point of care to follow guidelines and avoid errors.”

Simas agrees that understanding old data is important and contends that providers will soon be able to use care and outcomes patterns identified in retrospective analyses to anticipate future results. In the next phase of BI solutions, vendors are working to offer predictive analysis abilities that can potentially be used to assist providers in designing new care plans or making proactive business decisions.

However, not every provider will succeed in analyzing the data to improve quality and control costs. The stakes are high for those who fail. It’s likely they will be marginalized in the industry within the next decade, Simas says.

“In the long term, we’ll start seeing a considerable number of smaller facilities being acquired by larger hospitals that do a better job of analyzing data and remaining competitive,” he said. “Although it’s impossible to say a specific number, there is a significant percentage of the 5,000 acute care hospitals in the United States that will be gone in five to 10 years.”

To read the article in its original form: http://www.porterresearch.com/Resource_Center/Blog_News/Industry_News/2011/August/Business_Intelligencex_Key_to_a_Hospitalxs_Continued_Success.html

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August 10, 2011 - Posted by | Healthcare | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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