What One Mississippi Hospital Is Learning from its Analytics Move (Wall Street Journal)

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[Written January 28, 2014 by Clint Boulton]

Health care’s conversion to electronic records is exiting triage. Sometimes messy, sometimes hastily patched together, the move was only the first step in the industry’s long road to rid itself of paper. Hospitals are now looking to apply analytics to their ever-growing volumes of digital information in hopes of improving treatments and cutting costs. Despite the healthy digital prognosis, stumbling blocks remain.

The case of Memorial Hospital at Gulfport and its analytics push is illustrative of analytics’ allure and challenges. The Mississippi hospital is testing analytics software to help it address federal rules for managing patient data in a way that improves health service quality at lower costs. But like other converts to electronic health records, it has some preliminary challenges. Memorial is consolidating several EHR systems accrued over the years through acquisitions. Data within the systems are walled off from each other, making it hard to generate a complete view of clinical, administrative and billing information that could help the hospital find ways to reduce waste and boost quality. “It’s hard to connect the dots between my patient that goes to a clinic, the emergency department, or the in-patient stay,” CIO Gene Thomas said.

Memorial is moving data from its EHR hodgepodge to a single system from Cerner Corp., which is being tested and will be formally rolled out on March 15. With that in place, Memorial will use analytics software from Health Catalyst, a startup that raised $41 million in a recent funding round.

But such analytics tasks will have to wait. With a little more than six weeks to go before the Cerner implementation, Mr. Thomas said Memorial is trying to improve its “data integrity,” which involves winnowing duplicate and erroneous data from disparate EHRs. Cleaning the hospital’s data should allow for more accurate reflections of the hospital’s information when Memorial begins analyzing it with Health Catalyst, he said.

Memorial hopes to use Health Catalyst to analyze its clinical data as well as administrative and financial data stored in Cerner. For example, Mr. Thomas hopes to use the analytics to help reduce the percentage of patients that visit Memorial’s emergency department for treatment. If Memorial can figure out which patients may require regular visits, they can put them on a schedule to see physicians every six to eight weeks, reducing visits to the emergency room. “I need to get these people in a less expensive form of care… so they don’t wind up in the ED,” he said.

With Memorial Hospital currently managing 53 clinics as well as 250,000 ambulatory visits annually, its move to analytics is sounding less like elective surgery and more like a life-saving operation.

[Written January 28, 2014 by Clint Boulton]

View Original WSJ Article Here