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NLP & Text Analytics

Sepsis Treatment: Target Five Key Areas to Improve Sepsis Outcomes

More people in the U.S. die from sepsis than from prostate cancer, breast cancer, and AIDS…combined. Although health systems continue working to improve outcomes for septic patients, there is tremendous room for improvement. Preparing health systems to most effectively tackle sepsis starts with an awareness of consensus definitions of sepsis and continues with following evidence-based recommendations from credible organizations, such as the Surviving Sepsis Campaign and the Sepsis Alliance. Distilling ever-evolving recommendations and best practices for sepsis is time intensive. This article facilitates healthcare’s distillation effort by highlighting the five key areas health systems can target to improve sepsis outcomes (based on evidence-based guidelines and Health Catalyst’s first-hand experience with healthcare partners):

  1. Early ED recognition
  2. Three-hour sepsis bundle compliance
  3. Six-hour sepsis bundle compliance
  4. In-house recognition of sepsis
  5. Sepsis readmissions: prioritize risk stratification

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Five Deming Principles That Help Healthcare Process Improvement

Dr. John Haughom explains 5 key Deming processes that can be applied to healthcare process improvement. These include 1) quality improvement as the science of process management, 2) if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it, 3) managed care means managing the processes of care (not managing physicians and nurses), 4) the importance of the right data in the right format at the right time in the right hands, and 5) engaging the “smart cogs” of healthcare.

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Combatting the Opioid Epidemic with Next-Generation Risk Assessment Tools

The opioid-related death rate in the U.S. has quadrupled since 1999, making more effective ways to predict opioid misuse a healthcare priority. A new generation of machine learning-enabled risk assessment tools promises to deliver broader and more relevant insight into a patient’s risk. With more comprehensive insight (including comorbidities, other substance abuse, the amount of medication prescribed, and the duration of opioid use), clinicians can make informed decisions when prescribing opioids and reduce the risk that patients will misuse, abuse, or overuse the pain killers. Clinicians will also be able to identify which patients might benefit from alternatives to opioid pain management (non-pharmacologic, multi-modal therapies, or care management programs).

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The Top 7 Outcome Measures and 3 Measurement Essentials

Outcomes improvement can’t happen without effective outcomes measurement. Given the healthcare industry’s administrative and regulatory complexities, and the fact that health systems measure and report on hundreds of outcomes annually, this blog adds much-needed clarity by reviewing the top seven outcome measures, including definitions, important nuances, and real-life examples:

  1. Mortality
  2. Readmissions
  3. Safety of care
  4. Effectiveness of care
  5. Patient experience
  6. Timeliness of care
  7. Efficient use of medical imaging
CMS used these exact seven outcome measures to calculate overall hospital quality and arrive at its 2016 hospital star ratings. This blog also reiterates the importance of outcomes measurement, clarifies how outcome measures are defined and prioritized, and recommends three essentials for successful outcomes measurement:
  1. Transparency
  2. Integrated care
  3. Interoperability

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Medical Libraries: An Essential Resource in Outcomes Improvement

In healthcare outcomes improvement work, where best-practice insight and evidence-based knowledge are critical, medical libraries are an essential resource. Medical libraries are more valuable than ever in today’s digital world, in which information is readily available, but accessing accurate, focused evidence requires specialized skill and means. Organizations aiming to improve quality and move successfully toward value-based care need both data from the enterprise data warehouse (EDW) and evidence from the medical library. While data identifies opportunities for improvement, evidence furnished by the medical library shows whether proposed solutions are viable. Together, both knowledge bases drive pragmatic, sustainable improvement.

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Patient Registries Turn Knowledge into Outcomes Improvements

In today’s data-rich healthcare environment, patient registries put knowledge in front of the people who will use it to improve outcomes and population health. Non-IT professionals (e.g., clinicians and researchers) often don’t have direct, timely access to operational and clinical data. As a result, organizations miss out on important improvement opportunities and data-driven point-of-care decisions. Knowledge too often remains siloed in the enterprise data warehouse (EDW) or among specialized groups. Patient registries remove these barriers. It allows clinicians and researchers to make informed choices and frees up data analysts to focus on their priority areas.

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The Healthcare Outcomes Improvement Engine: The Best Way to Ensure Sustainable, Scalable Change

How do healthcare organizations create a systemwide focus on outcomes improvement? They build a healthcare outcomes improvement engine—a mechanism designed to drive successful and sustainable change. Creating this outcomes improvement engine requires four critical components:

  1. Engaging executives around outcomes improvement.
  2. Prioritizing opportunities most likely to succeed.
  3. Adequately staffing initiatives.
  4. Communicating success early and often.
Once up and running, multidisciplinary engagement and standardized improvement processes fuel the outcomes improvement engine in its mission to produce sustainable, scalable improvement.

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Reducing Unwanted Variation in Healthcare Clears the Way for Outcomes Improvement

According to statistician W. Edwards Deming, “Uncontrolled variation is the enemy of quality.” The statement is particularly true of outcomes improvement in healthcare, where variation threatens quality across processes and outcomes. To improve outcomes, health systems must recognize where and how inconsistency impacts their outcomes and reduce unwanted variation. There are three key steps to reducing unwanted variation:

  1. Remove obstacles to success on a communitywide level.
  2. Maintain open lines of communication and share lessons learned.
  3. Decrease the magnitude of variation.

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How to Create Change Agents Who Will Sustain those Hard-earned Healthcare Improvements

Establishing a healthcare improvement initiative is just the first step toward transformation. The real work of improvement lies in sustaining it, which is why qualified change agent are essential to meaningful progress. Change agents are trained to lead organizations in:

  • Case for change
  • Data management
  • Change management concepts
  • Cost Benefit Analysis
  • Integration
Health Catalyst’s Accelerated Practices Program gives change agents adaptive leadership training to guide systemwide change within their organizations. They are prepared to meet technical adaptive challenges while keeping teams engaged and productive, and, importantly, to use data analysis to improve quality, cost, and patient satisfaction outcomes.

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The Who, What, and How of Health Outcome Measures

Even though thousands of health outcome measures have the potential to impact the work we do every day, how well do we really understand them? In this article, we take a close look at the definitions, origins, and characteristics of health outcome measures. We break down the financial relevance of certain measures, the relationship between outcome measures and ACOs, and which measures impede, rather than enhance, a typical healthcare system. We review the role of an enterprise data warehouse and analytics, and we touch on the future of health outcome measures, all in an effort to provide deeper insight into some of the mechanics behind outcomes improvement.

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9 Ways Your Outcomes Improvement Program Could Be Delayed

A health system’s outcomes improvement program is an expensive undertaking. It’s worth the results, but there’s no need to make it even more expensive through unforeseen and unnecessary delays. We outline the three phases of managing outcomes improvement programs, from hardware and software acquisition and configuration to resource management to sustaining and scaling the gains. We also examine the nine potential pitfalls that can undermine success in each of these phases:

  1. Hardware and software acquisition delays
  2. Environment readiness
  3. Source system access
  4. Lack of resource capacity
  5. Lack of analytic and technical skills
  6. Data quality paralysis
  7. Lack of clinical or operational engagement
  8. Punitive culture: data used as a weapon
  9. No CEO, no go

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From Installed to Stalled: Why Sustaining Outcomes Improvement Requires More than Technology

The big first step toward building an outcomes improvement program is installing the analytics platform. But it’s certainly not the only step. Sustaining healthcare outcomes improvement is a triathlon, and the three legs are:

  1. Installing an analytics platform
  2. Gaining adoption
  3. Implementing best practices
The program requires buy-in, enthusiasm, even evangelizing of analytics and its tools throughout the organization. It also requires that learnings from analysis translate into best practices, otherwise the program fails to produce results and will eventually fade away. Equally important is that top-level leadership across the organization, not just IT, supports and promotes the program ongoing. We explore each of the elements and how they come together to create successful and sustainable outcomes improvement that defines leading healthcare organizations.

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Moving Healthcare Outcomes Improvement Projects to the Finish Line

There are many ways to approach outcomes improvement in healthcare. Health Catalyst advocates the three-systems methodology whose individual components remain firm: best practices, adoption, and analytics. There are also various ways to interpret the three systems and this article uncovers nuances in how they are defined. With this unique perspective, organizations may be better able to understand how to develop outcomes improvement projects that not only launch with enthusiasm, but sustain energy over the long-term. Furthermore, outcomes improvement done right is scalable so that small firms, those with fewer resources, can adapt the methodology to improve their performance.

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The Top Five Essentials for Outcomes Improvement

Outcomes improvement is complicated, but we’re beginning to understand what successful quality improvement programs have in common:

  1. Adaptive leadership, culture, and governance
  2. Analytics
  3. Evidence- and consensus-based best practices
  4. Adoption
  5. Financial alignment
Although understanding the top five essentials for quality improvement in healthcare is key, it’s equally important to understand the most useful definitions and key considerations. For example, how different service delivery models (telemedicine, ACO, etc.) impact quality improvement programs and how quality improvement starts with an organization’s underlying systems of care. This executive report takes an in-depth look at quality improvement with the goal of providing health systems with not only the top five essentials but also a more comprehensive understanding of the topic so they’re in a better position to improve quality and, ultimately, transform healthcare.

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The Top Six Early Detection and Action Must-Haves for Improving Outcomes

Given the industry’s shift toward value-based, outcomes-based healthcare, organizations are working to improve outcomes. One of their top outcomes improvement priorities should be early detection and action, which can significantly improve clinical, financial, and patient experience outcomes. Through early detection and action, systems embrace a proactive approach to healthcare that aims to prevent illness; the earlier a condition is detected, the better the outcome. But, as with most things in healthcare, improving early detection is easier said than done. This executive report provides helpful, actionable guidance about overcoming common barriers (logistical, cultural, and technical) and improving early detection and action by integrating six must-haves:

  • Multidisciplinary teams
  • Analytics
  • Leadership-driven culture change
  • Creative customization
  • Proof-of-concept pilot projects
  • Health Catalyst tools (knowledge briefs, outcomes improvement packets and worksheets, and care process improvement maps).
The report features a Thibodaux Regional Medical Center sepsis success story that demonstrates how creative customization, when paired with evidence-based standardization, can improve early detection and action efforts, as well as clinical, financial, and patient outcomes.

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7 Features of Highly Effective Outcomes Improvement Projects

There’s a formula for success when putting together outcomes improvement projects and organizing the teams that make them prosper. Too often, critically strategic projects launch without the proper planning, structure, and people in place to ensure viability and long-term sustainability. They never achieve the critical mass required to realize substantial improvements, or they do, but then the project fades away and the former state returns. The formula for enduring success follows seven simple steps:

  1. Take an Outcomes Versus Accountability Focus
  2. Define Your Goal and Aim Statements Early and Stick to Them
  3. Assign an Owner of the Analytics (Report or Application) Up Front
  4. Get End Users Involved In the Process
  5. Design to Make Doing the Right Thing Easy
  6. Don’t Underestimate the Power of 1:1 Training
  7. Get the Champion Involved

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The Top Success Factors for Making the Switch to Outcomes-Based Healthcare

Transitioning to outcomes-based healthcare is an industry wide goal. While some health systems, such as Texas Children’s Hospital, are in the process of making the switch (and doing it successfully), many systems don’t even know where to begin. Despite the challenges of achieving outcomes-based healthcare, it is essential for surviving the transition from fee-for-service (FFS) to value-based care. Systems can overcome the top three challenges associated with making the switch (lack of analytics, lack of access to information, and inappropriate organizational structure) by focusing on the most important success factors:

  1. Analytics
  2. Multidisciplinary Teams
Armed with an enterprise data warehouse (EDW) to make data-driven decisions about the best outcomes improvement goals to pursue, and permanent multidisciplinary teams responsible for continuously improving care, systems can start making the switch to outcomes-based healthcare.

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The Top 100 Hospitals Improve Outcomes and Reduce Costs

Truven recently conducted its annual 100 Top Hospitals Study. Using objective and independent research, and publicly available information, Truven determines the top-performers based on a variety of performance measures, from mortality to readmissions. For this first time in the study’s 23-year history, the top-performing hospitals were able to simultaneously improve outcomes and reduce costs. When interviewed about the reason behind this unprecedented trend, Truven’s Senior VP of Performance Improvement credited “uniformity and consistency.” But the report reveals other commonalities among the winners:

  • Data and Analytics
  • Evidence-Based Practices
  • Standardization
This curation summarizes the study’s high-level findings, including specific achievements.

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The Top 8 Skills Every Healthcare Process Improvement Leader Must Have

Healthcare process improvement leaders not only have to be a jack-of-all-trades, but they need to be a master, as well. This is one of the most important leadership roles in the healthcare system with responsibilities that can ultimately end up saving lives, improving the patient experience, improving caregiver job satisfaction, and reducing costs. Although there are many others, these eight skills are the most critical for the efficient, and ultimately, successful process improvement leader:

  1. Communication
  2. Trust Building
  3. Coaching
  4. Understanding Process Management
  5. Understanding Care Management Personnel
  6. Constructive Accountability and Constructive Conflict
  7. Resiliency and Persistency
  8. Seeing the Big Picture
Along with the right training, education, and sponsorship, it’s easy to see why this role blends many elements of art and science.

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How to Measure Health Outcomes that Matter to Everyone

To measure health outcomes that matter to everyone, it’s important to ask several questions before starting out:

  • How do regulatory requirements differ from outcomes improvement?
  • Do the measurements align with organizational goals and values?
  • Are the measurements worth the resources required to document them?
  • Will the metrics actually be applied to outcomes improvement?
  • Who are the beneficiaries of the outcomes improvement initiative?
The answers to these questions help save time and resources, sustain and expand the improvement effort, refine the list of measures to those that truly improve outcomes, and most of all, help avoid the outcomes measures graveyard.

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Why Process Measures Are Often More Important Than Outcome Measures in Healthcare

The healthcare industry is currently obsessed with outcome measures — and for good reason. But tracking outcome measures alone is insufficient to reach the goals of better quality and reduced costs. Instead, health systems must get more granular with their data by tracking process measures. Process measures make it possible to identify the root cause of a health system’s failures. They’re the checklists of systematically guaranteeing that the right care will be delivered to every patient, every time. By using these checklists, organizations will be able to improve quality and cost by reducing the amount of variation in care delivery.

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Improving Outcomes That Matter Most to Patients

Patient-reported outcomes (PROs) and patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) have been used in healthcare since the 1970s. But the industry hasn’t had meaningful, consistent PROs and PROMs definitions until ICHOM developed one. ICHOM, a pioneer in outcomes measurement and improvement, demonstrates that healthcare organizations focused on improving patient outcomes that patients actually care about are the ones most likely to transform healthcare.
PROs and PROMs complement clinical indicators in understanding the quality of healthcare a team is delivering. For example, an improvement program for prostate cancer patients that only focuses on improving blood loss or length of stay in the hospital completely misses a patient’s biggest fears: will they need to wear pads for the rest of their life? Will their relationship with their partner be the same as it was?
By focusing on outcomes that matter most to patients, health systems will be more successful at improving outcomes. ICHOM describes five strategies for getting started with PROs and PROMs:
  1. Find the Believers (Identify Clinician Champions)
  2. Organize a Cross-Functional Team (with Appropriate Governance)
  3. Invest Time and Resources
  4. Celebrate Progress Along the Way
  5. Use Early Successes to Scale and Spread

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Improving Healthcare Outcomes: Keep the Triple Aim in Mind

The battle cry for healthcare organizations throughout the United States? Improve outcomes! However, as organizations begin to measure outcomes they realize not all outcomes are created equal and the question of what constitutes an improvement becomes more challenging. Healthcare leaders would be wise to keep the Triple Aim in mind when creating a strategy for optimizing outcomes. Achieving the appropriate balance among the three dimensions of the Triple Aim is critical to driving real, long-term change in healthcare delivery outcomes.

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Employee Wellness: A Combination of Personal Accountability and Corporate Responsibility

A strong employee wellness program is the first step to encouraging better health and creating meaningful, positive change in the lives of employees and their families. A well-designed healthcare insurance plan, a comprehensive wellness program, and creating a culture of personal accountability for wellness can optimize healthcare spending and improve employee health. It can also bolster the understanding and shared accountability for healthcare costs between the employees and the company.

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Prospective Analytics: The Next Thing in Healthcare Analytics

Retrospective and predictive analytics are familiar terms for practitioners of clinical outcomes improvement, but the new kid on the block is prospective analytics. This is the next level that uses findings from its predecessors to not only identify the best clinical routes, but also what the results might be of each choice. Prospective analytics gives bedside clinicians an expanded, branching view of operational and clinical options in a type of decision support that can lead to not only improving surgical and medical outcomes, but to making a positive financial contribution, as well. But, as expected with any new process or new way of thinking, prospective analytics requires careful introduction and stewardship to help drive its adoption within the organization.

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