Guest Column | November 1, 2016

How Data Analytics Improve Hospital Management And The Patient Experience

Beth Meyers, RN, Chief Nursing Information Officer, Infor

By Beth Meyers, RN, Chief Nursing Information Officer, Infor

Technology can provide providers with streamlined, valuable insight which can improve inpatient care.

Take a minute and think back to where your organization was 10 years ago; before the Affordable Care Act, before HITECH and Meaningful Use, before your information technology (IT) budget was larger than your operating room budget. Today, EHR implementations are winding down, and it’s time to refocus on the patient experience. The best way to do that? Leverage the data you are now collecting and put information in the hands of decision makers throughout your organization.

That, however, is easier said than done. In many hospitals, IT departments struggle to keep up with the demand for information. Retrospective reports sit in queues for weeks, waiting for an analyst to develop a one-time, custom query. Sometimes clinicians and leaders give up on IT and hire their own business analyst, or purchase expensive third party, pre-built analytic models, which create new data silos. We are still a long way from President Obama’s vision of precision medicine when it comes to every day patient care.

In order to be successful wielding data to improve care, hospital leaders should focus on three key areas. First, hire the right team’ second, rethink processes; and third, count progress one project at a time.

Hire The Right Team

Providers and leaders share a common trait — they both fit the description of expert. They learn by doing and tend to trust their intuition. A data-driven organization must carefully consider this tendency. Are your team members ready to slow down, just a beat, to consider what the data has to say? Do they have the required training in statistics and computer skills to draw correct conclusions from data? Does your team have the right mix of experience and formal training?

This is important not only to the leadership team, but for the clinical team as well. HIMSS recently released Guiding Principles for Big Data in Nursing: Using Big Data to Improve the Quality of Care and Outcomes, recommending the use of nursing informatics experts to help navigate Big Data in nursing. This recommendation applies to other clinical areas as well. Clinicians who have formal informatics training are critical to implementing software in a way that allows data to be collected uniformly from all users. In other words, it takes specialized training — both in healthcare and in IT — to bridge the gap between the clinical world and the computer world. Make sure you are leveraging these experts by aligning them as a power team within your organization.

Rethink Process Improvement

In order to turn EHR data into valuable insights to improve inpatient care, align your informatics team with your quality improvement team. This is the winning combination for reducing unnecessary variation in processes, streamlining patient care, addressing clinician complaints about EHR user experience, and finally becoming a ‘paperless’ organization. Quality improvement requires data to measure current practices and progress; informatics teams need help to change organizational behavior. This dream team can tackle all the antiquated processes that were transferred to electronic format during the time crunch of a busy EHR implementation. They can tackle the issues as varied as patient throughput, interoperability, and EHR usability. Projects like these will help clean the data up, creating valid and reliable information.

Next, it’s time for process improvement to peek into the day-to-day habits of the management team. Are leaders in your organization still receiving printed copies of their financial responsibility report? Does your board receive a paper copy of the monthly presentation? Do you have leaders with personal printers in their offices? It’s time to embrace the world of self-service analytics. Today’s data visualization tools are as easy to use as traditional spreadsheets or word-processers. With minimum effort, even a novice user can create their own dashboard, drill-in to view underlying data, and even run complex analysis on large databases. Charts can be exported into presentations and updated with the simple click of a refresh button. Don’t call IT when you need a report, instead free your data with self-service analytics.

Track Your Progress

To eat an elephant, you need to take one bite at a time. And so it goes with improving your healthcare system with data from your EHR. The exciting thing is computers are really good at reviewing information in real-time, and they scale. Hospitals are beginning to take advantage of this by increasing the feeds to their central interface engine. It’s easier to make sure all your data is getting to the right place when it all goes through a central point that’s continuously monitored. A centralized approach overcomes the challenges many IT departments have with knowledge silos around individual software platforms. It’s a small step in the right direction.

Centralizing your interfaces also allows for in-stream data transformation and monitoring. Sepsis monitoring is a great example of this. Across the country organizations like HCA and Johns Hopkins are using EHR and patient vital sign data to identify sepsis earlier. Early identification of sepsis decreases length of stay, the costs of care, and saves lives. This is a great example of how a single algorithm, using data from multiple sources, can improve expert decision making.

Every process improved by EHR data creates a win for your patients. Happy team members, create a caring environment. Process improvement helps patients directly or indirectly via a better care system. And, each project moves us closer to a day when all data will be clean, organized and ready for use to improve patient care. Experts agree we are making progress. The hard work of EHR implementation is over; the hard work of improving patient care is just beginning.

About The Author
Elizabeth Meyers is the Chief Nursing Information Officer at Infor. In her role, she is responsible for formulating, communicating, and executing business plans for Infor’s healthcare solutions. Prior to joining Infor, she led Fairview Supply Chain’s business intelligence team, responsible for converting data into actionable information for decision making. Meyers also worked as a perioperative nurse in the U.S. Army and held positions in surgery and clinical management with Baldwin Area Medical Center. Meyers earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in technology management from the University of Wisconsin. She is currently a PhD Candidate in healthcare informatics with the University of Minnesota, where she is also a guest lecturer.