Interview with Stanford CIO, Carolyn Byerly: Launching A Clinical Data Warehouse in Months

Article Summary

Former Stanford CIO Carolyn Byerly talks about Stanford’s journey to build a centralized data warehouse.  She shares how they launched a data warehouse in a matter of months and why it was one of the best decisions of her career.   Learn more about  the technologies and methodologies that are transforming healthcare and driving improvement outcomes.


Stanford Health Care CIO Carolyn Byerly talks about working with Health Catalyst, Stanford’s five-year data warehouse project, and how Health Catalyst brought a methodology that transformed the way clinical stakeholders drive outcomes and improvements.

Guerra: Let’s talk about some of the other things that you’ve been up to. I understand you’ve started working with a company called Health Catalyst?

Byerly: Yes.

Guerra: Can you tell me a little bit about the work you’re doing with them?

Byerly: I can. I think it’s been now two years. They were referred to me by a colleague in the industry. I met with them probably three times before I felt that I understood what they could bring to the table, and felt strongly about introducing them to our CMIO and our CMO. Since we finished Epic, one of our top priorities has been business intelligence and analytics. As a matter of fact, probably in 2010 I can remember giving a presentation to our board committee on a five-year journey to be able to do clinical analytics and how long it would take to build a centralized data warehouse and the strategies around that.

When I met with them, what I liked best about the individuals — Steve Barlow has spent a lot of time here; he’s one of the principals — was the fact that they came from Intermountain Health. And not only did they come Intermountain Health, but the physician leadership at Intermountain Health at the time was also involved in the company (Health Catalyst) — well-renowned individuals in the quality and the analytics space in health care. Intermountain is probably one of the leaders. In very short terms, they took the plan that I had presented to the board and knocked about two and a half years off of it with their data model architecture approach. But the real value in working with them is they bring a methodology; a discipline of driving clinical improvement and quality outcomes in an organization.

Most organizations tackle it from a silo perspective. Most organizations think they can do it with, ‘I need a report that says this,’ and when IT delivers it, guess what? It’s never right. Their methodology, the way that they share their experiences, and the way that they conduct themselves have been a tremendous game changer at Stanford. And now, I believe, we’re certainly not one of the leaders, but I would say we’re almost at a breaking point where we will have a very robust data model for our warehouse and we will be driving most of our clinical effectiveness and our operational effectiveness through a centralized data warehouseusing the methodology we have embraced that is part of the engagement and value proposition with Health Catalyst.

When they talk, it’s interesting. There are some people who can come in — consultants or whoever — and I don’t really know what he’s saying or what she’s saying. I have to validate it. I listen to these guys. These guys know. They’ve been there. They’ve done it, and they can stand up the first two or three data models within your warehouse strategy in a very short period of time because they’ve built the tools to do that. But most importantly, they bring a methodology that will, in my opinion, transform the way clinical stakeholders drive outcomes and improvements.

It’s really amazing to watch. I’ve been blessed to have hired and worked with an individual who is our executive director of Clinical and Business Analytics, Yohan Vetteth. He’s been working with them a lot over the last two years, and I’m telling you, the changes and the adoption that we’re seeing by our physicians and our nurses and our operational staff — it’s amazing. We’re really in a breakthrough year this year. We’ve demonstrated the tool and some of the outcomes to our board IT committee as well.

Guerra: It’s interesting. You talked about the idea that when these guys come in, you listen to them, and it makes me think about how, at least with me and probably with you too, there’s sort of a barrier. Once somebody gets it, then you don’t have to validate every single thing they say, because they’ve gained your trust. Do you see it that way?

Byerly: Absolutely. I look back on my career, and meeting Health Catalyst and introducing them to Stanford and working with them was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made over the years.

Guerra: That’s certainly a high endorsement.

Byerly: Yes. And our CEO talks all the time about our analytics program and what we’re trying to do. It’s really very rewarding to have the leadership — not myself, but the leadership — talk about our program and what we’re doing.

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