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Community Hospitals Can Benefit from an Enterprise Data Warehouse

Written by Pat Bickley Product Manager Health Care DataWorks

Community Hospitals Can Benefit from an Enterprise Data Warehouse


Here is a hard truth: Business intelligence is becoming ever more critical within the healthcare industry given the requirements of healthcare reform, the emphasis on meaningful use, and the focus on reducing costs and improving the quality of care for patients. Capturing and analyzing data in an accurate and comprehensive manner is central to the decision making that ultimately will help healthcare systems, regardless of their size, address these unique challenges they now face. To understand the importance of analytics and data mining to organizational planning and decision making, we can take a few lessons from some prominent and successful consumeroriented companies such as Amazon.com, which regularly profiles customer buying habits to recommend affiliated products, or Google, which tracks website visits to gauge and better serve the interests of users. At the end of the day, both of these companies are focused on tapping into the intelligence of data to improve the experience of their key audiences, understand what draws the interest of consumers and, ultimately, make financially sound, strategic business decisions. It is no different for hospitals and medical systems. For healthcare systems, it comes down to this: The inability to achieve desired outcomes can lead to noncompliance and penalties; conversely, the ability to attain improvements in patient care and cost savings can improve overall efficiency and bring tremendous financial rewards. With so much at stake, it makes sense that an organizations ability to access and analyze reliable data from a single source is the sound way to measure progress toward objectives and make business decisions. When it comes to having that single and reliable source, an Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) brings the greatest value and return on investment. An EDW empowers organizations to extract, aggregate, organize and analyze a wide range of information that historically has resided in organizational silos. Absent an EDW, the data might all be there, but it is found in multiple departments and is stored in various ways, from PDF files and printed pages to electronic folders. An EDW brings all this data together uniformly and in near real time.


Many community hospitals, however, are missing out on the opportunities that can be realized from an EDW. They often do not explore options for an EDW because of two primary concerns: Limited internal resources. They are concerned an EDW will be a complex undertaking that will create strain and stress on the organization. Limited capital dollars. They believe an EDW will be too costly, and that with tight budgets, they will be unable to afford it. These are legitimate concerns, but solutions are available to enable community hospitals to benefit from an EDW, and the costs are not out of reach if the project is undertaken in the right manner. Why an EDW makes sense for community hospitals When it comes to having that single and reliable source, an Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) brings the greatest value and return on investment. There is no doubt that larger medical systems are finding tremendous value in the implementation and use of Enterprise Data Warehouses across all aspects of their organizations, from financial to clinical data analysis. An EDW is a powerful tool for community hospitals as well. While community hospitals may differ in scale and size from larger hospital systems, they face very similar business challenges. They are working hard to improve patient outcomes and demonstrate compliance with core measures. They are focused on reducing costs and making quantifiable improvements in quality. They care about revenue cycle. In order to meet these challenges, community hospitals increasingly want a comprehensive view of their operations; they need data that is reliable and timely. Many are doing their best to extract data from disparate departments and then pull it together so it can be analyzed for C-level and departmental decision making. This growing need for reliable and timely data has many community hospitals rethinking or at least examining how best to get access to this critical business intelligence in the most costefficient manner. For many, the data is largely collected with tremendous behind-the-scenes efforts by people in the financial, administrative and clinical departments, who are relying on manual systems to assemble spreadsheets.


Community hospitals might be tempted to tactically address the needs of individual departments. Financial wants access to revenue cycle data; administrative is seeking patient experience and ACO information; clinical needs quality data; research is interested in patient population analysis. This leads to the search for departmental-focused software and hardware solutions, and a belief that separately focused solutions could be the best option because each solution can specifically address the needs of a given department and can be the most cost effective because the investment can be spread out over time. Yet, this piecemeal approach is wrought with potential pitfalls, the biggest being the limited view of data that is provided. Financial data analysis will not speak to administrative data analysis; administrative will not speak to clinical; and so on. As a result, community hospitals could make significant investments in departmental solutions but still not have access to the bigger picture, where financial, administrative, clinical and research can share information. Some hospital systems attempt to mitigate this silo-based solution approach by linking the disparate departments at a later date and time. While there have been instances in which hospital systems have integrated departments in this manner, the outcomes often fall short of expectations. The experience of Health Care DataWorks (HCD) suggests that this approach makes it incredibly difficult to get information into the hands of the majority of those who need it, when they need it. Often, these models create organizational bottlenecks as more and more users within the organization want or try to leverage the data. The bottom line is that an EDW is the better solution from a strategic standpoint. Health Care DataWorks offers an EDW for community hospitals that allows a top down, comprehensive view of operations as well as a departmental view, so that: Financial can access revenue cycle information (such as AR days, cash collection, denials and rejections) and can employ and evaluate value based purchasing (process of care, patient experience). Administrative can view ACO, patient experience and information systems. Clinical can analyze quality, operating room, emergency department, meaningful use, nursing and clinic throughput. Research can access and analyze patient population analysis and patient recruitment.


How community hospitals can make an EDW work for them Clearly, community hospitals can benefit from an EDW. But they face those two critical concerns that we discussed earlier: 1) How to implement it without causing a strain on internal organizational resources; and 2) How to implement it cost effectively, especially if they want to phase in the investment to conform to their operational budgets. If the following tips are taken into account, community hospitals can be on their way to implementing an EDW that provides business intelligence in near real time: Speed up implementation and minimize the time investment of internal teams by deploying a web-based, packaged EDW solution. Rather than purchase, install and train on the use of new software and hardware, choose a web-based EDW, which will provide speed-to-installation benefits for IT, financial, clinical, administrative and research staffs that are pressed for time. Health Care DataWorks not only provides a web-based EDW, but also manages the web-based EDW to enable hospital system staffs to focus on what they do best analyzing data to make better business decisions. In addition, Health Care DataWorks provides pre-built dashboards for financial, administrative, clinical and research information. Choose an EDW option that enables community hospitals to realize a much-needed and rapid return on investment. Health Care DataWorks can get an EDW up and running within a matter of weeks at many community hospitals. Thats because the web-based EDW contains pre-built content that relies on existing standard data sources, such as HL7 data. Quick ROI is achievable because there is less effort required by the organization to input data to populate the EDW. Look for an EDW that fits within the operational budget and removes potential barriers to making the purchase. The ultimate goal is to have a comprehensive EDW in place organization-wide, but many community hospitals often are working with a budget that requires more of a departmental approach. The web-based EDW from Health Care DataWorks enables community hospitals to begin implementation in small focus areas and budget accordingly. The financial, administrative, clinical and research departments are part of a unified data model that forms the underlying foundation. Although individual departments can be brought online in a budget-conscious manner, they all will be able to communicate with another because of the unified data model.


Health Care DataWorks recommends focusing first on the financial and revenue cycle side, since this is where more immediate ROI can be realized. Community hospitals then can move to other areas, such as quality or value-based purchasing. With this approach, they can stay within the operational budget and spread the costs over a longer period. But it cannot be emphasized enough that if this focus-area approach is taken, a foundational data model must be implemented that is enterprise-wide and robust enough to enable other departments to be brought online smoothly and efficiently. An EDW can pay dividends quickly if implemented in the right way Health Care DataWorks has found that organizations do best when they strive to extract, gather and analyze the vast sources of business intelligence that reside within their varied departments. This practice can best be achieved through an Enterprise Data Warehouse that provides a unifying data model to bring all the relevant information together for self-help use by the healthcare organizations numerous users of information. An Enterprise Data Warehouse will: Provide dashboards/scorecards to empower employees to manage information Create a single trusted source for information and data Provide standard and ad-hoc reporting capability Create the foundation to move from retrospective analytics to predictive analytics An EDW is an investment that will pay dividends quickly if implemented in the right way and if the right data model is chosen to suit the needs of community hospitals. Community hospitals can realize benefits regardless of their size, and they do have affordable and effective options to give them an EDW that provides the business intelligence they need to meet the demands facing healthcare organizations nationwide.

For more information regarding the challenges of a departmental approach to data capture and analysis and the strategic benefits of an Enterprise Data Warehouse, refer to the white paper, Leveraging Information to Improve Organizational Performance Lessons from the Trenches in Developing this 21 Century Must Have Core Competency, by Detlev H. (Herb) Smaltz, CEO, Health Care DataWorks, Inc. (2011). Available at www.hcdataworks.com.
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About the Author Pat Bickley is responsible for leading the collaborative technology teams that develop Health Care DataWorks product offerings. Bickley's extensive experience in multiple healthcare markets spans more than two decades. Prior to joining HCD, Bickley was the Director of Product Management with RelayHealth/McKesson. In this role she managed Revenue Cycle solutions for the hospital market. She also served as Director of Product Management at HTP, held a management position with CMHC Systems, and was a research consultant at Netsmart Technologies. About Health Care DataWorks Health Care DataWorks, Inc., a leading provider of business intelligence solutions, empowers healthcare organizations to improve their quality of care and reduce costs. Through its pioneering KnowledgeEdge product suite, including its enterprise data model, analytic dashboards, applications, and reports, Health Care DataWorks delivers an Enterprise Data Warehouse necessary for hospitals and health systems to effectively and efficiently gain deeper insights into their operations. For more information, visit www.hcdataworks.com.


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Published: July 2012 2012 Health Care DataWorks, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED