How can we manage rising healthcare costs? What can we do to make services accessible to all? How soon will we cure cancer? Whatever the topic, healthcare issues are becoming more important, gaining attention and creating controversy on both sides of America’s political aisle. Costing an estimated $3.8 trillion (2014) annually in the United States, healthcare consumes nearly 20% of GDP. As the baby-boom generation retires and life expectancies lengthen, overall costs threaten to continue climbing. Improving care and accessibility while reducing expenses depends on unlocking insights that are buried in growing mountains of healthcare data. Because healthcare organizations are inherently science-based, they are particularly well suited to become data-driven in the long-term. As important as trusted technology is, planning and patience are also required to change organizational culture. A leading analytics firm, BlueGranite has collaborated with several healthcare clients to mine data to advance their goals for improved care and reduced costs.
Big Data Applications for Tumor Genomics – A large U.S. hospital network in the Southeast engaged BlueGranite to use Microsoft cloud technology to speed processing of vast quantities of tumor genomics data. Since the DNA of a tumor is a corrupted form of the patient’s own DNA, scientists can use gene sequencing on both the tumor and patient to find differences that may help describe the cancer’s behavior. Sometimes these gaps indicate that a different therapy should be used instead of the treatments applied normally for the anatomical location of the tumor. For example, one patient’s breast tumor might behave in ways more typical of another kind of cancer, like colon cancer. Treating this hypothetical breast cancer with appropriate therapies for a colon tumor may yield more promise. Microsoft Azure’s ability to scale processing environments on-demand and shut them down when finished helped BlueGranite create a solution that provides information to scientists much more quickly. This opens doors to provide custom-designed medicines for tumors’ genetic traits rather than their physical location, reducing the time to treat the tumor, expediting favorable patient outcomes, and reducing total cost of treatment.
EMR Text Analytics – After launching an expensive and complex electronic medical records platform, a major hospital found that process, device, and culture changes were not seamlessly adopted by all users. Many physicians were frustrated with the unfamiliar screens and hardware, which hindered their ability to care for all their scheduled patients. It was suspected that key medical information needing consistent, accurate, and timely action (like a prescription order) was being put in free form text fields (the path of least resistance) rather than in the boxes on tabs designed for that data. While it became anecdotally evident that quality was at risk, it was difficult to gauge the extent of the problem or to address it. BlueGranite was invited to show how Hadoop on Microsoft Azure can ingest large quantities of unstructured text rapidly and hunt for key terms, such as names of medicines or trigger words like “critical”. Allowing the client to focus on instances where patients need specific action or where to offer more training helped to improve the quality of care, staff morale, and patient outcomes. For an example of analytics applied to electronic medical records, see this BlueGranite case study on EMR system add-ons to increase patient success. In addition, implementing health analytics can promote better quality control to improve operations and patient care outcomes. To see how a European hospital is achieving both of those goals while reducing costs and meeting regulatory requirements, see this Microsoft case study.
Reducing the Cost of Care Delivery – One straightforward path to reduce the cost of healthcare is cutting the cost to deliver it. In recent years, a large, multi-location long-term care organization in the Midwest struggled to schedule enough nurses to cover all assigned patients. Labor costs for overtime were growing faster than revenue, jeopardizing success and viability. The client tasked BlueGranite to analyze its operational data and recommend ways to make actionable information more visible to management. Using Microsoft’s SQL Server Analysis Services and Reporting Services, BlueGranite quickly identified factors driving inefficient distribution of work, which led to more balanced workloads, improved morale, and reduced turnover. These improvements enabled the client to capture more than $1 million in annual overtime savings. In another example, BlueGranite used Microsoft’s cloud analytics capability to improve healthcare operations and reduce readmits, which otherwise might have generated costly fines for the client.
Streamlining Government Reporting – In a different scenario, a client that manages many nursing homes in several states sought to streamline accountability by making it easier for patients to rate the care they receive, which also must be reported quarterly to the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The client needed to be able to track employee history, hire and termination dates, job codes, census data, and other information associated with the care provided to each patient. Historically, CMS has conducted onsite testing at each facility, awarding each nursing home a rating from 1 to 5 stars to help families select the best facility. BlueGranite integrated data from multiple locations and systems to enable reporting in the precise XML format required by CMS, without manual data entry. BlueGranite worked to ensure that the system included all the necessary source system data checks and format cleansing to enable compatibility with the stringent government destination system. In this critical project, BlueGranite improved the accuracy and ease of patient quality of care reporting, reducing the client’s cost to meet this regulatory requirement.
Make these stories your own – If you are interested in learning more, BlueGranite can help you explore how healthcare analytics can improve quality and accessibility of care and reduce costs. Here are more examples of suitable use cases:
- Analyzing procedure codes to reveal unbilled, earned revenue
- Analyzing procedure codes and prescriptions to target healthcare fraud, waste, and abuse
- Improving population health management by using predictive analytics to anticipate patient needs and help prevent hospitalizations
- Scanning social media sentiment of patient feedback to find best practices to share, or to mitigate malpractice litigation risk
These are just a few examples of how BlueGranite’s INSIGHTS Framework can help both provider and payer organizations to Discover surprising nuggets of truth in their data, Create actionable ways to realize operational efficiencies, and Transform their organizational strategies and processes to deliver revolutionary results. Please contact us if you’d like to learn more or arrange a conversation where we can tailor our capabilities to fit your specific situation and goals.
 Munro, Dan, “Annual US Healthcare Spending Hits $3.8 Trillion.” Forbes online. Feb 2, 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/danmunro/2014/02/02/annual-u-s-healthcare-spending-hits-3-8-trillion/#22ee7acb313d