Analyze this!

By Mike Miliard
09:13 AM
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Cedars-Sinai looks to break down silos and attain 'true organizational business intelligence'

LOS ANGELES  -  "We spent lots of effort and dollars to implement EMRs and tools like those, but at the end of the day, the real value comes from how we're going to mine the information and use it," says Darren Dworkin, CIO of Cedars-Sinai Health System.

Toward that end, Cedars-Sinai recently enlisted Columbus, Ohio-based Health Care DataWorks for a multi-year deal, during which the health system will deploy its KnowledgeEdge Enterprise for clinical data warehousing.

With meaningful use well under way for the past two years, healthcare organizations are starting to move beyond mere information gathering and toward drilling down, analyzing and actually doing something with it all. 

Indeed, an August survey from Black Book Rankings found some 1,340 hospital IT leaders nationwide reporting that clinical analytics to be their highest prioritized system to acquire over the next year.

"ACOs, payers and pharmaceutical companies are leading the surge to gather analytic tools to improve clinician efficiency," said Douglas Brown, senior partner of Black Book's health IT market research practice.

Putting technology to work to broaden access to information  -  and hopefully divine actionable knowledge from disparate data sets  -  is only going to become more crucial to smart, high-quality lower-cost healthcare, says Dworkin.

"We, like many organizations of our size, have spent years investing and developing information silos, and reporting systems that sit on top of those information silos. And they've been very valuable, and they're important to us today," he says. "But to get to that next level of true organizational business intelligence, it's time to bring them all together."

The challenge, however, "is that sometimes you have to take a tiny step backward before you leapfrog forward. We have a lot of infrastructure, and a lot of planning to do to reconnect all of our data into one central place."

KnowledgeEdge Enterprise will help them get there  -  enabling the creation of a data warehouse that will gather and make sense of both clinical and financial data. The idea is to aid Cedars-Sinai make decisions that will deliver higher-quality care and lead to more efficient and effective ways of doing business.

One of the chief appeals of KnowledgeEdge Enterprise is that it's a package deal. "To the extent that you can take all the technologies and package them into a product, that's what we've done," says Herb Smaltz, chairman and CEO of Health Care Data Works.

The package includes "hardware, the operating system, the data model  -  which is the real big accelerator  -  and then tons of pre-built content that sits on top of it: dashboards for the operating room and emergency room, a value-based purchasing application that helps organizations, in real-time, manage how they're doing with their hold-back dollars, things like that," says Smaltz.

"We figured that, rather than spending two years figuring out how to gather all the data, import it and build a complex data model, we could leapfrog past all of that by leveraging what [Health Care DataWorks] already had, and focus our attention where it's best spent  -  which is to think of creative ways to display the data and present it to users to make it as productive as possible," says Dworkin.

The "fun part" of the KnowledgeEdge Enterprise implementation "is going to happen in stages," he adds. "I think we'll see productive use in a matter of months. I think it'll take a couple of years to have every piece of data in the system. But there's a heck of a lot of value we're going to achieve right from the beginning, and it will incrementally grow going forward."

"Technology is no silver bullet," says Smaltz. A hospital could have the best EMR and the best enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, but they're not going to be as useful as they might be if the data within them is trapped in silos, or if there are turf battles between "data ownerships fiefdoms."

More and more facilities like Cedars-Sinai are leading the way in changing that way of thinking. Their "state of readiness to take this new core competency," is improving, he says, and the top facilities are focused on looking beyond simply driving process improvements and actually "building an organization that can compete on analytics."

"Once you add accountable care into the mix, it only really makes it even more critical that we understand our information and what's going on," says Dworkin. 

"If you asked me what my No. 1 priority was for this fiscal year, I would tell you it's an easy question to answer: It's data analytics. And not only is it my priority for this year, it's my priority for the next three years. Because I really can't imagine at this point, something that would supplant that."