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Southeast Texas Medical Associates, a midsize doctors' practice in Beaumont, Texas, has slashed its hospital readmission rate by 22% in the last year. It also has reduced the number of visits it gets from diabetes patients around the holidays by 15% (such patients sometimes stop watching their diets and testing their blood around the holidays). The improvements--mostly the result of fewer complications--came about because the practice, known as SETMA, has found a way to keep its patients healthier.
SETMA hasn't stumbled onto some miracle cure. Its doctors are using business intelligence and analytics to fine-tune their care. The practice is employing tools from IBM Cognos to improve therapeutic and preventive care programs and boost staff productivity, in addition to reducing hospital readmissions. Other healthcare providers are following suit, employing everything from data warehouses at major cancer centers to mobile applications used by oncologists and their patients.
SETMA, with 29 primary care physicians in three locations, has used a NextGen EMR system since 1998. Two years ago, the practice invested in the Cognos tools to analyze data extracted from patient records. The Cognos products include dashboard software and tools for trending and auditing data. The extracted data resides in a data warehouse with records for 65,000 SETMA patients, including 7,500 patients with diabetes and 26,000 with hypertension. The data analysis tools are being used not only by BI specialists but by senior management and clinicians.
The tools let SETMA analyze the health and treatment trends of patients and audit the performance of SETMA clinicians to ensure that they provide evidence-based standards and adhere to best practices and quality-of-care measures from a number of sources.
Those quality measures include the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set from the National Committee for Quality Assurance, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid's Physician Quality Reporting Initiative, and care benchmarks from the National Quality Forum.
For example, SETMA's use of the Cognos tools for daily audits on quality measures provides clinicians with specific goals for the patients they see during the day. The tools ensure that screenings and tests are up to date, and cover preventive care programs for individuals with chronic health conditions such as diabetes.
The analysis has also helped SETMA identify "interruptions of care" and act quickly to resolve those issues. Care interruptions can range from patients missing tests or follow-up appointments to failing to have their medications or other treatments adjusted to address a change in health.
"Healthcare is behind the times in the use of BI," says SETMA CEO James Holly. "But everything that BI can do in other industries, it's doing for us at Southeast Texas Medical Associates, leveraging data to improve care."