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Metrics That Matter

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, September 13, 2012
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"People know I'm going to call," Glass says. "They know executives are paying attention to this on a regular basis, so as a result, people aren't waiting for the phone call. It builds an expectation in front of people that this kind of information is being monitored, so people don't want to get that phone call and not have answers as to what's going on in their organization."

Single source of truth
Business intelligence dashboards don't just happen. Behind their creation is a vast amount of tech-powered preparation and careful design, as healthcare executives sift through the many sources of data being generated in their enterprises, looking for the holy grail: a commonly agreed–on set of key metrics aggregating data from widely different information systems throughout a modern hospital.

These rollups are commonly referred to by healthcare CIOs as the "single source of truth," which, when properly designed, also allow a wide variety of enabled professionals to drill down multiple levels from the top figures in dashboards all the way to performance of individual units and physicians, if needed, to understand trends.

Retail and financial enterprises learned early how to employ business intelligence to respond to customer demands quickly. Healthcare is a latecomer to this, driven by the more recent move away from pay-for-performance to value-based healthcare and accountable care.

In this new environment, "you're going to be judged on patient experience, quality outcomes, and how you are managing the cost for that value of service delivered," Glass says. "These dashboards are tools that are already in place that allow us to focus on that."

Analytics don't just let executives compare results over time, but they also let them measure performance compared to national metrics. "You want to be able to see how your docs are doing compared to other docs in the country, as well as your region; that includes length of stay, cost per case, utilization of pharmaceuticals, and mortality," says Rick Schooler, FACHE, FHIMSS, FCHIME, the CIO of Orlando Health, a 1,780-bed network that includes Orlando Regional Medical Center and five other hospitals.

About three years ago, Orlando Health realized it had to begin developing its own single source of truth, Schooler says. "We could not continue to have multiple metrics—often the same metrics coming from different resources and different sources—that reflect different answers for the same question," he says.

The goal was to populate an information repository to let service line workers go after whatever they need, Schooler says. "We've been heads down at this for maybe a year and three or four months, [and] we believe there is a three- to five-year initial deployment to get to where there is what we would consider a critical mass of information from across the organization."

Schooler selected an Oracle-based enterprise data warehouse hardware appliance from Columbus, Ohio–based Health Care Dataworks. "You basically then have to develop the feeds out of your systems to populate that data model and then you use different toolsets on the front end to give people access to the information and to slice and dice and to view and scorecard and dashboard yourself to your heart's content," he says.

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