News Feature | October 24, 2014

Software Assesses Care Costs, Improves Quality

Katie Wike

By Katie Wike, contributing writer

Population Health Management Clinical Risk Reduction

Web-based reports help hospitals directly assess patient care costs and improve quality of care.

At the University of Utah Health Sciences Center, software is being used to create insightful reports on patient care costs, which ultimately leads to improved care. According to the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, the goal was “to develop expeditiously a pragmatic, modular, and extensible software framework for understanding and improving healthcare value,” which would compare costs relative to outcomes.

Fierce Health IT adds the health system includes not only four hospitals, but also 10 community clinics and 1,200 doctors and, “The challenges in creating the system included integrating information from multiple data sources; availability of required data and data quality; system performance and understanding how to take action based on the data, the authors write.”

The new software uses a data warehouse to compile data from multiple sources and uses business rules to allocate costs to patient care. “For example, labor costs in a hospital unit are allocated to patients based on the hours they spent in the unit; actual medication acquisition costs are allocated to patients based on utilization; and radiology costs are allocated based on the minutes required for study performance,” says the report.

“A visualization layer facilitates the identification of value improvement opportunities, such as high-volume, high-cost case types with high variability in costs across providers,” explain researchers. “Initial implementation was completed within 6 months, and all project objectives were fulfilled. The framework has been improved iteratively and is now a foundational tool for delivering high-value care.” The program takes about four hours to fully run and is used at the end of the fiscal year in addition to its use at the end of every month.

More than 50 value improvement initiatives were initiated or evaluated after implementation.

Researchers concluded, “The measurement and improvement of care value is a critical imperative facing the US healthcare system. We speculate that the technical approach described in this manuscript will help guide other institutions’ efforts to address this challenge and improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of health care.”