How Healthcare Business Intelligence Drives Smarter Decisions

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Healthcare Business Intelligence We’re constantly considering ways in which we can make our way through our daily task list in less time with the best possible results. I think we would all like to work smarter.

Health leaders and clinicians are no exception. So it’s not a surprise that the pursuit of improved productivity and clinical outcomes has spurred countless advances in human factors research, continuous quality improvement and assistive information technology – including the creation of Business Intelligence (BI) systems.

What is Healthcare Business Intelligence?

BI is a loosely defined, but commonly used, term that means various things to different people. It seems to have become a catch-all phrase for three classes of technology:

  1. Enterprise data warehouse (EDW) systems used to aggregate and standardize data across an organization
  2. Reporting tools that visualize data (visualization tools), typically representing a snapshot of information captured at a particular point in time
  3. Discovery tools that allow users to proactively drill down and through data sets, asking questions and uncovering information in real time about the performance of their organization

The truth is that a robust BI solution should include each of these technologies.

The Best Solution for Healthcare Business Intelligence

There is tremendous benefit in the standardization of data in an EDW. The EDW is the brawn of the operation, handling the heavy lifting to structure all of an organization’s data assets. However, an EDW on its own does not give individual employees or the organization as a whole the means to work smarter.

Reporting tools serve to better inform decision makers by drawing “facts” from the EDW routinely or as needed. For example, a CFO may want to keep a high-level eye on the organization’s bottom line and be alerted to deviations in budgeted costs, while a radiology department administrator will want patient throughput metrics and alerts to issues that are critical to effectively performing her job. For these needs, reporting tools give users access to factual information which is accurate as of the moment the report is run—for example, “Cardiology is $42,355 over budget on supply cost.”  This is very good information, but it doesn’t provide intelligence. Why? Because the user cannot determine why the variance is happening.

Simply put, a complete BI solution helps users answer the question, “Why?” It enables clinical and technology teams to use discovery tools to dig deep into the data to discover the root cause of trends.

Effective discovery tools are embedded with intelligence that mirrors the way health leaders and clinicians think about their work, and they feature real-time dashboards that deliver fresh and relevant information for a given task. Embedding this type of intelligence requires good old-fashioned collaboration. Teams of end users define the underlying data sets, how they should be queried and how the information can best be displayed in a dashboard view.

Unlike a static report that offers only a snapshot of performance, a discovery tool can enable the user to drill down and through the source data to quickly identify the source of red-flag issues and respond more intelligently. When teams invest time to optimize a dashboard, the information presented becomes added organizational IQ.

Healthcare BI Tools in Action

Working with dozens of hospital teams, We’ve seen the moment when added IQ delivers never-before-available actionable information.  One client wanted to reduce the number of elective C-sections that were being performed at their facility. Initially, they could not definitively answer the question, “What is the percentage of women who have elected C-section delivery but who were capable of vaginal birth?”  Ultimately, they wanted to be able to identify patients matching this description from data in their EDW. Understanding who these women were and identifying their obstetrician would then provide an opportunity to research causes behind the election of a medically unnecessary procedure.

On the foundation of an EDW, the team was able to:

  • Create a tool that determined the current rate of cases matching the patient definition—21.3 percent of eligible deliveries.
  • Use an interactive discovery tool to analyze the identified group of patients.
  • Set an educated target rate of 15 Percent.
  • Implement a dashboard that visualized their current rate and progress over time so that they could measure performance improvement.
  • Use the drill-down functionality to investigate individual cases by contacting the attending physician to better understand why the elective procedure was performed.

Armed with this intelligence, this hospital can now lead targeted physician interventions, provide patient education and take other measures to reach or exceed their goal. Along the way, the intelligent dashboard continues to track their progress and identify new cases on a daily basis.

This is true BI at work: uncovering data that was previously inaccessible to identify root causes of a known problem, then using that information to make informed decisions and implement change for improved clinical and financial outcomes.

Learn about how you should go about evaluating a business intelligence tool for healthcare or learn why your healthcare business intelligence strategy can’t win without a data warehouse.

What sort of BI solutions have you interacted with in your organization? Have they included one or more of the three elements described above? How successful have then been in driving sustainable change?

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