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The Power of Plugged-In Physicians

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, May 25, 2012

One good example I recently discovered was through a conversation with Greg Tipsword, the healthcare provider practice lead for West Monroe Partners in Chicago. I interviewed Greg for a story in an upcoming issue of HealthLeaders magazine about identifying—and using—the right data to help make life- and cash-saving interventions. He tipped me off to the work of two physician engineers (my term, not theirs) at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Executives are looking to increase the value of healthcare delivery, Tipsword says, meaning delivering a good outcome at a sustainable cost.

And you can't figure out costs and cut down on unnecessary work without efficient flow and tracking of patient data across the various enterprises that make up the agglomeration of healthcare services in a modern health system.

"There's data everywhere, and people everywhere are trying to make sense of it, but they're doing so in their own little world," he says. "They're not working toward a common enterprise goal."

Those fragmented data fiefdoms, as any executive knows, have an insidious role in high costs, unnecessary care, and poor quality. I use the word insidious because their influence is not immediately apparent because of outcome lag. Perhaps the problem seems so big, ingrained, and unmanageable that most executives don't know where to start to address it.

At Mayo, the best place to try to build the information stream was the emergency room.

Vernon Smith, MD, with some help from Tipsword and the Mayo Clinic's Center for Innovation, developed a system of sharing data that is powerful in its simplicity. Smith, who has self-described passion for computing and medicine, is one of the chief architects behind the system of 21-inch TV monitors at St. Mary's Hospital, a 1,265-bed hospital that is part of the Mayo system. The monitors aggregate a huge amount of data on patients currently in the hospital. Though developed in the ED, the system is now used throughout St. Mary's units and is being introduced at Mayo facilities elsewhere.

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