Health care is "way behind the curve" when it comes to data management, says Dr. James Holly, CEO of Southeast Texas Medical Associates (SETMA), a family medicine and gerontology practice.
Holly, who also acts as de facto CIO, has refined the use of data at his 24-physician practice over the past two years. Having started using electronic health records in 1998, Holly oversaw SETMA's steady development of a tightly integrated 60-application IT environment. Despite all the cutting-edge capabilities those apps gave the practice, the value of all the resulting data--"millions upon millions of pieces," according to Holly--was undermined by the lack of a powerful data mining tool.
It could take as long as 36 hours to assemble and analyze the data needed by doctors from the maze of applications. "We knew what we wanted to do, but we were incapable of doing it," says Holly. "We had to settle for much less."
In summer 2009, the organization deployed IBM Business Analytics software and created a data warehouse. Holly says the software's ability to pull information from SETMA's application portfolio into the data warehouse and perform real-time analysis reduced that 36-hour analysis window to a mere 15 seconds.
The resulting insights have enabled SETMA to raise the bar on patient care. For example, doctors were able to recognize an important and disturbing trend: Many diabetes patients were losing control during the eating-intensive holiday season. These patients also were less likely to visit their doctor and have important tests performed during that time period. Because this can lead to unnecessary complications, SETMA started asking diabetes patients to sign contracts promising to be seen over the holidays. As a result, "We've seen a remarkable improvement in our ability to intervene in that population's care," says Holly.
SETMA's improved use of data also enhanced the quality of post-hospitalization care by ensuring that when a patient is discharged, everyone--the patient, hospital staff and SETMA physicians--is armed with the right information. This can include details such as the patient's medications and dosages, or specifics about the home-care environment to which the patient is returning.
The result has been a 22 percent decline in hospital re-admissions, translating to significantly reduced costs, enhanced care and an improved patient experience, according to Holly. "We wouldn't know whether what we were doing was working if we didn't have the business intelligence software," he says
Delay at Your Own Risk: The Scale Will Kill You
Make no mistake--for every company that's extracting value from its data, there's another with its head in the sand. "A lot of companies aren't paying attention to this," says 2020 Venture Partners' Eslambolchi. "They're just paying attention to day-to-day operations." The way he sees it, companies have an opportunity to reduce costs and increase revenue with added services by getting on top of their data. It's also a matter of survival. Says Eslambolchi: "You're going to reach a point where the scale is going to kill you."