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Building the Data Analytics Team

By smace@healthleadersmedia.com  
   November 03, 2015

A key objective is for this analytics team at UM Health to "step up our game" to produce more engaged conversations between UM Health leaders during bimonthly enterprisewide operating reviews, when metrics for each department and service line are reviewed and interventions planned as needed, Bliven says.

"We have a population health view, so we'll look at the different contracts we're working on, and look at our performance to that, and it's a similar approach that really helps us kind of see across the organization and catch trends and then get an idea of each organization's ability to engage on the data and where we might need to have some oversight or assistance," he says.


Joe Kimura, MD, MPH

"All of population health management is essentially cohort analytics," says Joe Kimura, MD, MPH, deputy chief medical officer at Atrius Health, an alliance of nonprofit community-based physician groups in eastern Massachusetts and Boston that serves 675,000 patients via 750 physicians, with more than 50% annual revenue coming from risk-based contracts. Atrius is a Pioneer ACO, a pilot CMS program recently found to be saving Medicare $400 million over its first two years.

"If it's a payer-designed cohort like Pioneer, you have a set of patients that is defined by an attribution model or something along those lines, but it could be a disease-based model, just anyone with diabetes, and the question is, how are you defining diabetes in your population?" Kimura says. "Once we actually define that population, we run a whole series of analyses to help
characterize that population, not only in terms of its utilization patterns, disease characteristics, and comorbidities, but also in terms of what we generally understand as care metrics or quality metrics."

Atrius employs four levels of SQL programmers to perform data analytics queries, Kimura says. "Those folks basically take about 16 to 18 months of training to get to a place where they can sit with a business owner and generate a specific ad hoc report," he says.

Such results could also be delivered as discrete information elements in Atrius' EHR, as well as reports in Crystal Reports or Microsoft Excel. More recently, Atrius has turned to SAP Universe and Dashboard technology to provide self-service business intelligence analytics to clinicians.

"We've pivoted there because SAP has single sign-on with Epic, which made it easy to utilize that capability," Kimura says. Although a number of Atrius employees already have statistical training, its academic partnerships in the Boston area allow it to engage with consultants to build BI models in-house and deploy them. If such consultants come from academia, "it's a lot easier for us to recruit them."

Over the course of a year, Atrius currently runs three or four such BI research initiatives, and so continues to engage consultants. "We don't think we're going to invest a lot around bringing in full-time staff to do some of the advanced stuff until we get bigger," Kimura says.

One payoff for Atrius: being named the number two Pioneer ACO in the United States in terms of quality reports in fall 2014, and the top such organization in New England. "We've been able to maintain the highest quality scores in New England and be number two among all Pioneer programs in 2014 and have begun to realize financial savings from CMS," Kimura says.

Reprint HLR1015-8

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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