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Building the Data Analytics Team

   November 03, 2015

"Some of my colleagues are more toward the self-service side than I am," says Harris Stutman MD, chief medical information officer at MemorialCare. "But we have, within the last couple of months, put together the idea of a physician analytics program, a kind of a mini-fellowship, to take our physician leadership, certainly the folks that are responsible for leading our medical group and leading the best practice initiative within our hospitals—clinical documentation improvement, population health, those sorts of things—and train them in what data sets we have available and what tools we have available, and help them understand that we really need to ask answerable questions," he says.

Harris Stutman, MD

"We invited 13 physicians to be in the initial mini-fellowship class, and all 13 accepted—which really surprised me, because we're not paying them to spend 2 or 3 hours a week in a classroom, learning this material. But they all felt it was sufficiently relevant and important to what they do to make time to attend those programs, and we'll see what positive outcomes develop," says Stutman.

"Vendor partners train us in the tools and the technology," Ekambaram says.

Among the quality improvement programs being driven by the analytics team are quality measures and core measures for sepsis management for MemorialCare's inpatient and pediatric populations. MemorialCare's vice president of population health is also working with the analytics team to gather palliative care metrics.

Vivek Reddy, MD

"It's very important for people to understand what sorts of business problems they're trying to solve, and to make sure that when they start really mining the data, they're doing it with specific goals in mind and not just fooling around to produce some pretty pie charts or bar graphs," Stutman says.

Another provider that has tried dual approaches to recruiting analysts from inside or outside of healthcare is Pittsburgh-based UPMC, which operates more than 20 hospitals and employs more than 3,500 physicians. "We merge the skill sets of both" externally recruited analysts and internal analysts, says Vivek Reddy, MD, chief medical information officer for UPMC's health services division. A major push has been to provide analytics training for UPMC clinicians who "we thought were up-and-comers in our organization that had an aptitude to learn a new skill set," he says. Toward that end, UPMC built a training program in conjunction with nearby Carnegie Mellon University. So far, UPMC has put 75 workers through the program, a mix of clinicians, nurses, and financial employees.

Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.

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