How To Unlock the Analytic Value of Your EHR

Late-binding Data WarehouseOver the past few years I’ve had the privilege to spend time with leaders from many US health systems, including physicians, nurses, CEOs, CFOs and CIOs who are committed to providing the best, financially sustainable patient care, but have not had all the resources necessary to reach that goal. As they grapple with the transition to value-based care, they recognize that the deluge of data they’re generating may hold the key. Yet they haven’t had the tools necessary unlock its value.

Many of them expected that deployment of an Electronic Health Record System (EHR) would be the answer. While this is clearly a necessary step towards data-driven care delivery, the EHR alone is not enough without a data platform that enables an enterprise wide, consistent view of data from many sources. Since this challenge seems to be pervasive, let me offer a perspective on some of the most oft-repeated data questions posed by health system leaders.

Why Wasn’t My Massive EHR Investment Enough?  Do I Really Also Need A Data Warehouse?

While converting clinical data from paper to electronic format is a necessary step in utilizing that data to improve care, without a way of organizing the clinical, financial, patient satisfaction and administrative data into a single source of truth a health system will not be able to harness the analytic power of the data. Gaining actionable clinical, financial and operational insights requires near real-time capture, aggregation and analysis of data from the EHR and other internal and external systems. Unfortunately, this data is stored in silos that separate clinical, patient satisfaction and financial data.

The right healthcare data warehouse can break down the silos and harness the power of this disparate data in a meaningful way both clinically and financially. The healthcare EDW can offer immediate access to near real-time data, enabling healthcare analytics and the ability to prioritize improvement opportunities with the greatest upside potential. Unfortunately, most healthcare data warehouses currently in use can’t deliver a complete, integrated view across the enterprise.

We Already Have A Data Warehouse: Why Not Use It?

Many health systems have a partial data warehouse, and this is a good start, but without an enterprise-wide view, incorporating all major sources of data within the health system, there will not be a single platform and source of truth ready to scale to meet current and future needs. We rarely find systems that have built a true enterprise-wide healthcare EDW that can supply the single source of truth because it’s very difficult to do without a flexible, agile architecture. However, when clinical data is married with financial, administrative and patient satisfaction data, breakthrough analytics leading to significant care improvement and efficiencies can often be realized.

What Are The Different Data Warehousing Architectures and Does Architecture Really Matter?

There are two prevailing data warehousing architectures being offered to health systems today, each with advantages and disadvantages. The first architecture we refer to as the Enterprise Data Model architecture, which is the architecture most commonly used (with success) in other industries such as financial services, retail and manufacturing. Its advantages include theoretical elegance and pristine integrity, and its disadvantages include its difficulty to handle the complexity and agility often required within healthcare.

The second architecture is a late-binding, bus-oriented architecture and was developed by Health Catalyst’s co-founders after they tried and failed to implement the Enterprise Data Model architecture within a healthcare setting.  Its advantages include time-to-value and flexibility, and its disadvantages include less theoretical elegance than the enterprise data model approach.

Obviously we at Health Catalyst prefer the second architecture, and given the speed with which payment models are shifting, we believe time-to-value and flexibility are centrally important to health systems’ survival and success moving forward.

IDC recently wrote an informative report describing this new architecture in their report entitled “Perspective: Health Catalyst – a Fresh Approach and Architecture for Clinical Analytics.”

We were also honored that Gartner recognized the uniqueness of our healthcare EDW platform by naming Health Catalyst one of five “Cool Vendors for Healthcare Providers 2013.” The accompanying report noted that Health Catalyst empowers health systems to turn information into a strategic asset and provides “analytic modules” that provide the tools and a proven, systematic approach to improve care processes in specific operational and clinical areas such as heart failure readmissions and hospital acquired infections.

Is The Key To Realizing Analytic Success at My Health System More Dependent on Software or Services?

We believe that, first and foremost, health systems need a flexible, agile and scalable data warehouse platform to be successful with analytics. Once the platform is in place, the tangible return on this platform investment comes through the implementation of “analytic applications” that sit on top of the platform. We have developed over one hundred applications that run on our platform, and our clients have developed dozens more. The combination of this platform and these applications are much more “products” than they are “services.”

However, if clinicians do not use the technology and make it their own, the products will not impact care and improve efficiency. As a result, we at Health Catalyst have assembled likely the most experienced technical, clinical and business team in healthcare data warehousing in the industry. With over 500 years of combined healthcare data warehousing experience on staff, we can provide useful services to aid clients in implementing and utilizing this platform and these applications.

What’s The Story Behind Health Catalyst?

The company’s founders and many of our clinical, technical and business leaders have decades of experience at leading health systems including Intermountain, Northwestern and PeaceHealth. Health Catalyst has applied the principles learned at these health systems into a commercial-grade, stress-tested data platform that scales vertically and horizontally to meet the needs of small, rural hospitals and multi-state health systems with dozens of hospitals. It performs effectively in academic medical centers and in specialty hospitals, and supports inpatient, ambulatory and population management initiatives.

We are honored to count as investors some of the most successful financial and strategic healthcare institutions in the world, including Sequoia Capital, Norwest Venture Partners, Sorenson Capital, Kaiser Permanente Ventures, Partners HealthCare, and CHV Capital. This strong financial foundation has enabled Health Catalyst to scale to meet the needs of more health systems. We are grateful that over twenty million patients across nearly one hundred hospitals are benefiting from our data warehouse platform and applications, and we look forward to partnering with hundreds more hospitals in the months and years to come to harness data to transform patient care.


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