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Health-Care Provider Uses IT To Find New Business Opportunities Faster

The hospital chain rolls out software from Autonomy to organize and analyze a hodge-podge of scanned clips, electronic feeds, as well as other assorted tidbits to find new trends and opportunities.
Until now, Sutter Health's business strategists had a tedious method of trying to identify what important new health-care trends the company needed to focus on most. You could say the process was like leafing through an electronic scrapbook.

For Sutter, which operates 26 hospitals in Northern California, that meant saving onto a file server a hodge-podge of scanned clips from newspapers and medical journals, electronic feeds about industry events, as well as other assorted tidbits that people at Sutter passed on as important to keep.

The problem was that once the information was stored on the file server, there was no easy way to search and retrieve it, let alone try to analyze the unstructured content for trends or other important patterns. So, in order to find that information again, Sutter's business development and strategy staff would need to scroll through folders, hoping to recognize the correct names of files or scanned articles they were hoping to pull up.

That's all about to change as the company begins to rollout Autonomy Corp.'s Intelligent Data Operating Layer infrastructure software, which integrates structured and unstructured information—including text, speech and video—from multiple repositories.

This will let Sutter easily search and analyze its unstructured content, whether it be articles from Web sites, scanned clippings, E-mails, or any other data that could ultimately help Sutter "keep ahead of trends," says Jim Harrison, who was recently named to the new position of VP of business intelligence and is heading up Sutter's new business intelligence group, which formally had been called the strategy and business development team.

Soon, "we'll spend more time on the implications" of developing trends, rather than wasting a great of time gathering up information to identify them, says Harrison. This will help Sutter in its "mission of transforming health care," including being an "early adopter of technologies to improve the quality of care and competitive advantage," he says.

Harrison's group, which includes a staff of two senior business intelligence analysts as well as junior analysts who report to them, a strategic database administrator, and a market researcher, will use Autonomy's search engine software via their laptop computers to analyze "clusters" of information that could indicate important new trends in emerging technologies. This ultimately will help Sutter identify new markets, health-care services, and business opportunities, such as enabling Sutter to be among the first health-care provider in a community to offer services utilizing important new medical devices or pharmaceutical products, he says.

Harrison's group will use Autonomy to provide monthly business intelligence reports and "cluster analysis" to Sutter's top executives, including the CEOs of its hospitals and medical groups, he says.

Later, Sutter will extend the use of Autonomy's software further to help profile individual expertise within its organization. This could allow Sutter analysts at one hospital to electronically identify people at other Sutter facilities who have experience in a key medical or business area, which could let a Sutter business development analyst seek advice from internal "experts" whom are already well aware of possible problems or challenges that can be averted.

Autonomy's software is also being used to prevent problems in other industries, says Nicole Eagan, Autonomy's chief marketing officers. In the physical security arena, Autonomy's products are helping to analyze video surveillance for "breaks in a usual pattern," like a package suddenly appearing on a railroad track. The software can proactively alert security personnel, so that it can be investigated sooner and possibly prevent an accident or possibly a terrorist act, she says

The software is also being used in the financial securities industry to analyze recorded conversations and E-mails between stock brokers and clients that could indicate non-compliance with regulatory mandates. The software is also being used in some financial institutions to analyze and spot non-compliant E-mail messages before stock brokers actually send them to clients, she says. The stock broker would see a pop-up alert before sending the E-mail warning him or her that the message has been identified as possibly containing information that might be inappropriate, Egan says.