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June 6, 2012 Readers Write 2 Comments

Submit your article of up to 500 words in length, subject to editing for clarity and brevity (please note: I run only original articles that have not appeared on any Web site or in any publication and I can’t use anything that looks like a commercial pitch). I’ll use a phony name for you unless you tell me otherwise. Thanks for sharing!

Moneyball and the Power of Data Analytics
By Gerard Livaudais

6-6-2012 7-49-34 PM

I’m not much of a baseball fan, but I really enjoyed the movie Moneyball. If you haven’t seen it (or read the equally excellent book by Michael Lewis), here’s a ten-second synopsis. Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland As baseball team, bucks traditional scouting methods by using data analytics to find undervalued players. He is pilloried by baseball purists for his stats-obsessed methods, but he builds a winning team on the league’s lowest payroll.

Moneyball may be a baseball movie, but the real story is about the transformative value of data. And as the final credits roll, what’s clear (at least to this viewer) is that even the most under-funded team in baseball uses data more effectively than most healthcare providers.

The use of data as a business intelligence tool is hardly new. In almost every industry on the planet, companies are leveraging data-driven decision-making to realize productivity gains, achieve competitive advantages and improve overall performance. Even the smallest of SMBs (small and medium-size businesses) are getting in on the act, thanks to the simultaneous rise in computing power and drop in hardware and storage costs.

Businesses like the Oakland As are using data to win baseball games. In a hospital, access to the right data at the right time saves lives. Yet healthcare organizations as a whole are failing to use current, accurate data to support their clinical, financial, and operational decisions.

Healthcare should be setting the standard for data-driven business intelligence. Here are three strategies we can use to get there.

1. Focus on the Data that Matter

Healthcare organizations certainly don’t lack for data. Thanks in part to a constellation of regulatory mandates, we already capture, store, and report phenomenal amounts of data. On the other hand, financial incentives – never the top priority but always a factor — for effective use of data are rising. Meaningful Use Stage 2 includes numerous value-based purchasing elements and aggressive penalties for hospitals and physicians who fail to demonstrate the quality of care they deliver.

One way we can leverage data more effectively is by breaking down the data silos that prevent the right information from getting into the right hands. As an industry, we spend billions of dollars building and maintaining the data warehouses that power analytics across healthcare environments. These internally-hosted systems may be great at assembling data and powering analytics for specific departments or functions. But they also isolate that data, inhibiting its value as a decision support tool.

The right business intelligence technology can break down these data silos much more easily and cost effectively, enabling all decision-makers within an organization to access the most relevant metrics and performance indicators. The implementation and support cost factors for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions are several orders of magnitude less than internal systems.

2. Leverage Internal and External Data

Once internal data silos are torn down, healthcare organizations have the ability to seamlessly share information across departments and business units. Integrating data from outside your organization is essential to enabling true comparative analysis. Inconsistent data formats are a nightmare to normalize and aggregate manually. But industry data standards such as HL7 are helping enable true interoperability among best-of-breed technology solutions.

3. Influence Positive Patient Behavior

Health outcomes are ultimately dictated by patient behavior. One of the most promising frontiers of clinical business intelligence is the ability to blend data that reflect not just clinical activity, but social factors that can help predict how well certain patients will comply with a treatment plan, particularly for chronic illness.

These factors can range from patient-generated measures – such as how patients prefer to interact with their physicians – to the presence of psycho-social indicators such as depression and exercise level. Their economic impact can be profound. The cost to treat diabetes in patients with depression is more than twice that of diabetes patients without depression. By blending clinical and social indicators, providers are able to “personalize” treatment plans that simultaneously raise the probability of successful health outcomes and reduce the overall cost of treatment.

However, some of these measures of efficiency are not universally appreciated just yet. As Billy Beane discovered, prioritizing on-base percentage over batting average may be a more efficient path to building a successful team. But his Oakland As had to win games first – a lot of them – before his industry appreciated his logic.

The good news for healthcare is that everyone – from physicians and providers to device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, insurers and other payers, and even academic and research institutes – benefits from more efficient and successful patient outcomes. All parties also benefit from instant access to accurate healthcare data. The right tools can open up a world of opportunity to improve outcomes and save lives.

Gerard Livaudais is chief medical officer of Quantros.

Care in an Emerging Market
By Arvind B. Deshpande

Recently my father, who is 84, was hospitalized for profuse sweating based on telephonic advice of our family doctor.  I live in a city about 150 km from Bangalore (or Bengaluru). I am describing the care at the hospital.

We arrived on a Saturday around midnight without calling the hospital. As soon as we reached the hospital, staff at the entrance wheeled him to ED. The duty doctor took an ECG and advised moving him to ICCU. By the time I finished the paperwork at billing (where they located his nine-year-old ECG record in less than a minute,) he was in the ICCU on the first floor of the four-floor hospital.

The doc in ICCU immediately connected a vital signs monitor. Noting the low heart rate of 40, he mentioned that an external temporary pacemaker might become necessary. I signed the consent, giving my contact details.

Around 2:30 a.m., I got a call saying they had connected the external pacemaker after his heart rate became irregular and he had been defibrillated. My father stayed in the ICCU until Monday morning, when the interventional cardiologist took a look and advised an angiogram. He mentioned that if there was a heart block, they might have to introduce a stent.

I again signed the consent papers. The whole procedure, including angioplasty, was completed in an hour. My father was moved back to ICCU. Care in ICCU was good, timely, and home-like, to say the least.

The doctor mentioned that he would stay in ICCU for two days, then be shifted to the ward for another 2-3 days. The external pacemaker would still connected as a safety standby. He was moved to the ward after two days and the external pacemaker was disconnected on Day 4. He continued in the ward until Day 6 as a precautionary measure, then was discharged from the hospital.

I had the opportunity to interact with the doctor every morning. The findings were recorded on paper and explained to me daily.  On the last day, all the records were signed off, billing was completed, and we came home,  which is about a 10-minute drive from the hospital.

This 30-bed hospital dedicated to cardiac specialty has its own IT hardware setup and software locally developed to support them. Meaningful Use and EMRAM standards do not exist and are not mandatory. This hospital is ISO 9001 certified ,and one can say they comply with the standard in letter and spirit.

I work for a medical device manufacturer here. I am an avid reader of your blog, from where I have gained some insight into how providers and vendors work towards patient care in the US.

I am not suggesting that the recent measures announced in the US are not necessary. The above incident is only to spread awareness as to how good care is primary and systems are required to support care.

Arvind B. Deshpande is head of quality assurance and regulatory affairs for Larsen & Toubro of Mumbai, India.

Why We Do What We Do
By Dan Herman

6-6-2012 8-07-40 PM

I have received a birds-eye view of our healthcare delivery system while tending to my mom over the past couple of months. She had major open heart surgery at a hospital outside of Chicago in late April. She was discharged to rehab and is doing pretty well for a woman who will turn 82 next week.

The hospital that cared for her is part of a large IDN, highly integrated on a single EMR platform for their inpatient and multi-specialty physician group practice.

They are a HIMSS Analytics EMRAM Stage 6 organization. Not only was the care and patient service impressive, but the collaboration and coordination among the care team was practically seamless. Her internist, cardiologist, thoracic surgeon, and anesthesiologist; nursing teams in the med-surg, ICU and SICU units; physical and speech therapists; dietitian; and social worker for discharge planning were all working in synch across her episode of care and had access to her clinical information across the care continuum (including her previous problem list and meds and allergies from her internist that practices at the medical group). Mom also accesses her regular lab results from home (and now the rehab facility) through the health system’s patient portal.

My key observation was the impact of what we do as healthcare IT and operations improvement professionals. The hospital that cared for my mom has long been recognized as a leader in the use of information technology to support care delivery, operational, and financial management processes. They had a paperless business office in the early 80s; standardized the nursing documentation process across their four acute care sites in the 90s; and obtained 90%+ CPOE adoption almost 10 years ago.

During the inpatient stay, I didn’t see any paper. Everything was documented in the system – nursing notes, MD notes, anesthesia and OR record, legal documents, ICU monitoring device results, etc. But more than the IT aspects, I noticed a very streamlined and coordinated care process that was centered on the patient. Patient safety and service was the driver behind the outstanding use of the top-of-the-line technology. Always confirming the patient’s name, medication bar coding that ensured the right meds, doses were delivered to mom at the right time (she really hated being woken up at night or at 7 a.m.)

Mom was transferred there from the hospital down the street (it’s where the ambulance took her). She never felt comfortable and safe at the first hospital. Her doctor didn’t practice there. They didn’t explain what was going on. They didn’t have access to her past clinical history. The caregivers weren’t coordinated. Patient safety was in question (a nurse came in with meds for another patient). The facility wasn’t as nice, and the food was not nearly as good. However, they used the same EMR.

It’s not about systems. It’s about leadership, accountability, and the care delivery process. The contrast between the two hospitals was a case study. This overall experience drove home the significance of what we do. Whatever your specialty is or your role within your organization, it’s essential to never forget our true mission – improving healthcare.

Dan Herman is founder and managing principal of Aspen Advisors.

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Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. It is interesting that this is the second time in 2 weeks that I have heard the movie Moneyball in reference to eHealth. Richard Alvarez, from Canada Health Infoway, made reference to this in his keynote address at the eHealth conference last week in Vancouver.

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