It was a pleasant surprise to see healthcare clients prominently featured at the 2018 Information Builders Summit (#IBSummit) in Orlando FL. Best known for their work in financial services, government and retail, Information Builders has recently carved out healthcare as an industry of focus. That focus was on full display with presentations from: Floyd Healthcare, St. Luke’s University Health Network, Markham Stouffville Hospital, and the Healthcare Association of New York State.
According to experts at GE Healthcare, the average US hospital generates in excess of 50 Petabytes (PB) of data each year. That’s inclusive of all images, lab results, EHR data, financial information, and every other bit of operational as well as clinical information. To help put that amount of data in perspective:
- 1GB = 7min of HDTV video 
- 1TB = 1024 GB = 130,000 digital photos
- 1PB = 1024 TB = 3.4 years worth of HDTV video, or about the size of the movie Avatar
- 50PB = The entire written works of mankind from the beginning of recorded history in all languages 
With this much data, it’s no surprise that many companies are putting energy behind Big Data and Machine Learning (ML) initiatives to help wring value from this growing mountain of information. Companies like IBM Watson, Health Catalyst, Caradigm and Optum all offer advanced data analytics platforms that use various forms of ML to discern patterns within healthcare data. However, most healthcare organizations do not have the technology infrastructure, funds or executive buy-in to adopt these heavy-weight solutions.
Luckily, Information Builders (IB) offers healthcare organizations a way to ease into advanced analytics that does not require the hiring of a data scientist as step one.
According to Grace Auh, Manager of Business Intelligence & Analytics at Markham Stouffville Hospital (located north of Toronto, Ontario), IB provided a smooth on ramp to data analytics. “Instead of trying to go from zero to 100 KPH (MPH for those in the US) in a single step, we adopted IB’s webFOCUS tool to whet the appetite of internal stakeholders” said Auh. “We started with ED pay-for-performance metrics that are tied to reimbursement bonuses here in Ontario. We created a series of reports that executives could drill-down into for deeper analysis. We update the clinical data monthly and the financial data quarterly.”
Auh and the team at Markham Stouffville opted for simple reports/charts rather than fancy data visualization in order to help gain executive buy-in. By keeping things simple, Auh was able to quickly convince executives that the data within the IB reports were indeed accurate (something that had been a challenge with previous data initiatives).
“The goal,” explained Auh. “Is to have a fully integrated and real-time system that is the single source of truth for the hospital. We want to empower program and hospital leaders to self-serve their data needs. It’s our job to build the platform so that they can get the data they want in the format they need it whenever they want. It’s got to be clean, simple, complete and easy to consume. We even want physicians to start using it.”
Floyd Healthcare, an independently-owned community hospital network in Georgia, had a similar goal.
“We have a vision to roll out our dashboards to directors, supervisors and even front-line staff,” said Drew Dempsey, Director of Planning & Business Intelligence at Floyd Medical Center. “We already have a data-driven culture at Floyd because of our lean six-sigma work. The appetite for metrics is high and our level of data maturity grows each day. The data we are able to get through IB is helping us achieve our goals and drive operational efficiencies.”
Using IB’s new Omni-HealthData platform, Dempsey and his team put together a surgical volume dashboard for their CEO. It showed surgeries by speciality, by surgeon and by location. This type of report was a regular part of executive meetings. It used to take days to compile this information by hand and required 120 PowerPoint slides to present it to the level of detail needed for the meeting. The entire report is now automated within Omni and offers executives multiple ways to slice the data.
“We used to spend a lot of time compiling data,” recalled Dempsey. “But now with Information Builders we are able to spend more time analyzing and interpreting the data – a far better use of everyone’s time. We build everything once and it gets used many times.”
The team at Floyd is now working to expand into other reports that provide Service Line and Operational leaders with clinical as well as financial reports that will allow them to make better strategic decisions. From there they plan to tackle revenue cycle reporting, quality metrics, population health indicators and PCMH reporting.
It would be fair to say that Floyd and Markham Stouffville are both fairly early in their analytics journey with IB. St. Luke’s University Health Network, however, is highly advanced in their use of IB’s tools for clinical and operational insight. A ten hospital system centered in Bethlehem PA with over 300 sites of care, St. Luke’s is a top performer on the Truven Top 100 (now IBM Watson Top 100) hospital analytics list.
St. Luke’s codeveloped the Omni-HealthData platform in cooperation with the team at IB. Many of the out-of-the-box report objects and visualizations are the refinement of the reports that St. Luke’s created for their internal users. These reports include:
- Department/Service Line Performance
- Patient Safety Indicators
- In-patient Quality Metrics (ALOS, SSIs)
- Marketing Analytics
- Value-based Contract Metrics
In total there are over 90 self-service reports (called applications in IB vernacular) available.
“We borrowed proven tactics from the retail industry,” explained Dan Foltz, Managing Director at Parnassus Consulting, who helped St. Luke’s with their IB implementation. “With IB we were able to do targeted patient outreach based on cohorts of interest. Using data from multiple systems we were able to determine which patients might benefit from education and special programs. For example, the hospital wanted to make early stage Parkinsons patients aware of a deep brain stimulation program. We were able to achieve an 80-90% uptake – something unheard of in healthcare. It was amazing.”
The St. Luke’s electronic data warehouse consolidates information from six main (and silo’d) systems:
Over the next few years they plan to consolidate all their source systems into the warehouse and use their IB portal to provide insights. They currently have 40 data sources integrated within IB.
You can read more about the St. Luke’s implementation of IB in this success story.
I came away from IBSummit impressed by the success that Information Builders has helped its healthcare clients achieve. Every healthcare client that I spoke to raved about how the IB team helped them avoid project traps like diving too deeply into data specifics, losing sight of overall strategic goals, and not gaining sufficient executive buy-in.
“We’re sticking to what has made us successful in so many other industries,” said Jake Freivald, Information Builder’s Vice President of Product Marketing (Healthcare). “We are here to help healthcare organizations collect information faster & easier, and providing tools that allow them to present that information in valuable ways. The one thing we see our healthcare clients needing is more help in the data consolidation step. That’s where we are focusing more attention.”
It will be interesting to revisit IB’s early-stage healthcare clients at next year’s Summit to see how much progress they have made.