Expect More Data Power in Healthcare (Healthcare IT News)

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[Written by Bernie Monegain]

Remember the old adage, “Knowledge is power? In healthcare, it’s never been more manifest than in these times when hospitals and health systems are increasingly turning to data for answers to many big questions: How best to reduce readmissions, speed cancer research, reduce variation in care, reduce waste – wasted time, wasted procedures, wasted money.

There is evidence in hospitals across the country that it’s working.

Using data, North Memorial Health Care in Minneapolis has achieved:

  • 75 percent reduction in the rate of elective early-term deliveries, earning a significant bonus payment from a key payer;
  • 35 percent reduction in the rate of chronic lung disease among premature babies;
  • 55 percent drop in the number of patients with low-risk chest pain who were admitted to the hospital for observation; and
  • 65 percent reduction in the amount of time admitted patients spent under observation.

At Allina Health in Minneapolis, a length-of-stay project resulted in $10 million in savings.

Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston is pulling data to study individual medical interventions one by one, to determine which are effective.

Charles Macias, MD, an attending physician and director of the Center for Clinical Effectiveness and the Evidence-Based Outcomes Center at the Texas Children’s told me a year ago: “Now I can’t imagine going back to how we were before. To think that we would have to wait so long to get outcomes is just unconscionable.”

Those results were achieved using a platform developed by Salt Lake City-based Health Catalyst.

There are other companies doing similar work in this field with technology that plumbs data for insight: Oracle, IBM and Deloitte, to mention just three.

IBM recently announced more work for its Watson cognitive computing technology, this time at the New York Genome Center, to examine data to help accelerate, improve and personalize cancer care.

Watson is also working with Weltok, a startup focused on health optimization. Welltok will use Watson technology in an app called Café Well Concierge to answer questions such as, “What can I do right now to improve my health and save insurance costs.”

At Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CIO Darren Dworkin credits the center’s enterprise data warehouse Health Care DataWorks’ KnowledgeEdge for helping the organization achieve Stage 7 faster than it might have without it. “Our use of analytics gives us a competitive and quality advantage as we support the sharing and use of data to improve the delivery of patient care,” Dworkin said in a statement.

We like the way Brett Davis, Deloitte consulting principal and general manager of ConvergeHEALTH – a Deloitte business unit – frames this renewed attention to the power of data:

“Unlike implementing an EMR, where there’s a go live date, analytics is more like Zen because you’re in a constant state of becoming, because when you get one insight, it creates three more questions that you want the answer. So the transformation to a data-driven organization is much, much more than a technology challenge.”

At every turn, there is more evidence that implementation of an electronic medical record system alone will not be enough to transform healthcare.

Gartner analysts Vi Shaffer and Mark A. Beyer are saying as much in a new report.

“Healthcare IT’s potential value is changing in profound ways,”they write. “While the big value boost started with electronic health records, efforts must be heavily directed to advancing the state of retrospective and real-time analytics. Superior use of analytics will be a dominant factor in health system success for the rest of this decade, and it is a growing component of the CIO work.”

Indeed, there are plenty of illustrations even today of what Shaffer and Beyer are asserting.

We think their best advice in a report replete with nitty-gritty gems, is this one:

“Use all the education and influence you can muster with top executives to make the case for a strong top-executive commitment to high-value use, strong information governance and data quality.”

Early results at hospitals across the country that have begun to tap into their data are already proving the value and the potential going forward.

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