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Doctor Practice Uses BI Tools To Improve Care

Southeast Texas Medical Associates has employed IBM business intelligence software to analyze patient care and reduce hospital readmissions.

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Within the first six months of using the Cognos tools, SETMA reduced hospital readmissions of its patients by 22%. SETMA was able to use the analysis tools to compare patients who did not experience readmission to those who did, taking into account patient characteristics such as age, gender, ethnicity, follow-up care received, and how soon follow up care was received once the patient left the hospital.

Using the Cognos tools to analyze patient EMR data, ICD 9 billing codes, and other information, SETMA identified patterns that showed groups of patients who are more likely than others to be readmitted, and the factors that contribute to that. SETMA saw that patients who live alone and patients in lower social economics groups were among individuals most likely to be readmitted.

For instance, patients who live alone are less likely to adhere to their follow-up care instructions while lower income patients often can't afford medications prescribed for ongoing treatment once they're out of the hospital, Holly said.

These findings prompted SETMA to institute new post-hospitalization treatment plans that include setting up immediate at-home care and interventional support services for patients who live alone, as well as the creation of a foundation to help low-income patients pay for their medications, said Holly.

SETMA spent about $500,000 on the Cognos project, said Holly. "It was expensive but the payoffs are enormous, we're just scratching the surface," he said.

There are records for 65,000 patients in the Cognos database, including records of 7,500 diabetics and 26,000 with hypertension, said Holly.

Prior to using the Cognos tools, it would take SETMA about 36 hours to run daily patient-encounter reports using the NexGen EMR database and query functions, Holly said.

That means SETMA was always at least a half a day behind in seeing, for instance, if patients had received the evidence-based care they should have gotten based on their situation--such as whether they are diabetic or have other chronic conditions.

Now applying the Cognos tools onto data in the data mart, complex analysis can be completed in seconds, said Holly.

The work at SETMA shows that once doctor practices have digitized and scrubbed patient data, applying BI and analytics tools to the data trove can be useful in identifying trends that ultimately lead to programs for improving in care--even if you're not part of large integrated health delivery networks or academic medical centers, said Vi Shaffer a research analyst at Gartner.

"There's no question that this is a hot topic this year, building plans to tap these data assets," she said.

The interest in deploying analytics to improve patient care and clinical performance is also being fueled by healthcare reform and the emergence of new accountable care organizations in which affiliated healthcare providers increasingly will be rewarded based on their quality of care and their ability to reduce costs, said Shaffer.

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