Big data helps health system match patients to providers, needed services

University Health System in Texas is using analytics and marketing technology to better identify community needs.
By Bill Siwicki
02:46 PM
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University Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. Credit: Google Maps

One northeastern, non-profit, nationally recognized health system secured a 2,000-to-1 return on investment by driving new patients to mammogram screenings using analytics and marketing technology.

The health system is harnessing big data to better understand patients' and physicians' needs. First, it delivered targeted messages to women 40 years of age and older in the health system's community who had not received a mammogram in the prior 12 months.

In tandem, local physicians received messages promoting the organization's outpatient imaging practice to increase education and referrals – leading to thousands of new patients using the service, and the 2,000-to-1 return on investment for this campaign.

Other health systems across the country are leveraging Big Data to better mesh with healthcare's changing ecosystem, including University Health System, a public district hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

[Also: Population health program leverages social determinant data with help of regional HIE]

"University Health System regularly seeks to understand changing dynamics in healthcare delivery and the needs of our community in data-driven ways," said Ted Day, executive vice president of strategic planning and business development at University Health System. "The strategic planning and business development function employs this type of thinking when assessing the shifting patterns of demand and supply of services across the large geographic area served by the system and its academic partner, UT Health San Antonio.”

Over the past several years, leadership in this function has tried a few different technology solutions to determine which offered ready access to a meaningful and relatively complete picture of these patterns. The health system decided on the analytics and marketing technology and services of Tea Leaves Health.

"University Health System has tried a few different systems in the process of assessing which solution would be most helpful," said Day, who declined to name the systems.

As he explained, "the systems that are most helpful to the analytical and the 'boots on the ground' functions of working with the provider community across the region are those which provide a broad spectrum of payers in their claims data – not just Medicare or just major payer commercial – those that provide an easy and intuitive data entry function for field staff, and those that ultimately balance those attributes with meaningful and adjustable reporting capabilities."

The ideal solution would have a strong interface of these aforementioned capabilities – a provider relationship management, or PRM, system – with a robust customer relationship management, or CRM, system, Day said. The health system has not yet found this ideal solution, equally strong in both PRM and CRM, he said.

For University Health System, the Tea Leaves Health technology is able to supply, through its PRM application, ready access to broad claims data for assessing community healthcare service supply and demand trends. Field staff assess these patterns and discuss preferences and opportunities with individual providers in the community.

"This marketing technology facilitates the right kinds of conversations with the right kinds of providers, in an effective, data-driven fashion,” Day said. 

There are a variety of provider relationship management systems on the market today from vendors including Ascend, Evariant, Infor, Salesforce, Silverline and Software Solutions Group.

University Health System recognizes that the pace of change in healthcare delivery is rapid, and in fact is speeding up with mergers of various entities within traditional healthcare delivery and even outside the provider sector with pharma and non-healthcare entities forming partnerships, said Day.

"Consumer-directed views of purchasing healthcare services are expanding daily," he said. "All of these trends are fueled by data analysis and their ultimate success will be measured by what new results data suggests is the outcome of new alliances and approaches."

Further, the speed of understanding results on any venture or new tactic makes it possible to test quickly whether what the health system is doing is bearing fruit, or whether another rapidly deployed approach would be more beneficial, he said.

"Thus the utilization of a system targeting outreach conversations that provide new insights on a monthly basis is a valuable tool for effective and flexible decision making," he added.

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Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: bill.siwicki@himssmedia.com