Dignity Health to Enable Value-Based Healthcare


A major health system whose analytics applications haven't been as effective as it would like has entered into a partnership with SAS to bring its diverse data initiatives together and present a single point of truth.

San Francisco-based Dignity Health, which has 380 provider locations, 9,000 physicians, and 55,000 employees, is consolidating its analytics initiatives and will work with SAS (this site's sponsor) to create a cloud-based, big-data platform for a library of clinical, social, and behavioral analytics applications.

The partnership, expected to last for at least five years, came about after a year-long RFP process and stemmed from a review of the health system's existing analytics projects, Dr. Joseph Colorafi, vice president and chief medical information officer, told me today in a phone interview.

"It really is something very foundational and something we have wanted to do for a while. It was just a matter of finding the right partner," Colorafi said. "We've done assessments of our analytics maturity in the past and it turns out that we are not high in terms of maturity."

He says maintenance of the various analytics systems has been manually intensive, and that the system has numerous silos of data that need to be pulled together to present that single point of truth.

Dignity Health plans to launch the new effort with a focus on defining best-practices for addressing congestive heart failure and sepsis. Using the model created for sepsis, it will then extend the effort to other acute and emergency scenarios, as well as ambulatory care.

Sepsis is generally defined as a life-threatening condition that occurs when chemicals released into the blood stream to fight infection lead to inflammatory reactions throughout the body.

For Dignity Health, a key with sepsis is to identify the symptoms early and alert healthcare professionals. "We're looking at reducing the mortality rate in hospitals. If we can intervene earlier we can avoid having patients going into the ICU and going into renal failure," says Colorafi.

That means employing analytics, not only to identify the symptoms, but to develop an alerts system for patients and providers. What analytics can offer is support for a two-way data exchange. Data about symptoms and patient conditions comes in from the field, and the analytics application can issue alerts. However, one of the concerns is the possibility of too many false-positive reports leading to unnecessary alerts.

So, data will be analyzed to help medical professionals learn which of those alerts turn out to be false, thus improving the accuracy of future alerts. "It's a knowledge-generating medical feedback loop," says Colorafi.

"In order to deliver the right care at the right place, cost, and time for every patient, we must connect and share data across all our hospitals, health centers, and provider network," said Deanna Wise, CIO at Dignity Health, in a press release. "The SAS cloud-based analytics platform will help us better analyze data to optimize and customize our treatment for each patient and improve the care we deliver."

Colorafi added that new analytics capabilities also are tools in helping Dignity Health make the transition that many healthcare organizations are striving for, and that is to move from a fee-for-service model to a value-based business model.

A value-based model for any health provider is intended to reduce costs while improving patient health over time, compensating providers for helping patients to return to health, avoid readmission, and stay healthy, rather than simply getting paid for visits and tests.

With that in mind, Dignity Health is building out value scorecards, measuring results, improvement in patient experiences, and costs for specific use cases. So, top priority for the SAS-supported analytics initiative will be the business use cases that provide the greatest value and return -- early treatment of sepsis being one.

— James Connolly Circle me on Google+ Follow me on Twitter

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James M. Connolly, Editor of All Analytics

Jim Connolly is a versatile and experienced technology journalist who has reported on IT trends for more than two decades. As editor of All Analytics he writes about the move to big data analytics and data-driven decision making. Over the years he has covered enterprise computing, the PC revolution, client/server, the evolution of the Internet, the rise of web-based business, and IT management. He has covered breaking industry news and has led teams focused on product reviews and technology trends. Throughout his tech journalism career, he has concentrated on serving the information needs of IT decision-makers in large organizations and has worked with those managers to help them learn from their peers and share their experiences in implementing leading-edge technologies through publications including Computerworld. Jim also has helped to launch a technology-focused startup, as one of the founding editors at TechTarget, and has served as editor of an established news organization focused on technology startups and the Boston-area venture capital sector at MassHighTech. A former crime reporter for the Boston Herald, he majored in journalism at Northeastern University.

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Re: Example
  • 8/27/2014 3:36:04 AM
NO RATINGS

Ther might be an opportunity for both and make it a win win for all involved.

Re: Example
  • 8/26/2014 8:13:36 AM
NO RATINGS

If the data did allow them to get back to causes and eliminate them, it would be a huge value. If it is used to maximize payments and profits, the value is somewhat less.

 

Re: Example
  • 8/26/2014 8:06:12 AM
NO RATINGS

It would be interesting to hear more about what data the project will be collecting. In order to lower mortality rates through sepsis and congenitive heart rates I'm wondering if they are going to look at conventional data points or explore others which may lead to some new discovery of what causes may be resulting in those outcomes.

Best Practices
  • 8/26/2014 1:45:12 AM
NO RATINGS

I really thnk the idea of consolidating analysis across large medical groups is overdue. There is so much we can learn from the process and the outcomes of so many critical medical conditions. I am glad to see this group making the leap, are there any plans to compare their results to other health groups to create best practices across health care groups?

Re: Example
  • 8/22/2014 5:01:55 PM
NO RATINGS

I really hope this approach works so well that others will follow.

Re: Example
  • 8/22/2014 4:37:52 PM
NO RATINGS

@Tomsg. I know that with some health organizations saving lives seems to take a backseat to the dollar, but Dignity Health says they are putting the saving of lives and the experience of the patient right up front.

Re: Sharing on sepsis
  • 8/22/2014 4:37:52 PM
NO RATINGS

Maybe we ought to call for some sort of coordinated assault -- you work on sepsis, you on diabetes, you on renal failure, and so on. 

Re: Sharing on sepsis
  • 8/22/2014 4:35:47 PM
NO RATINGS

Beth. Dr. Colorafi didn't specifically mention sharing their best medical practices with other health organizations, but that's one thing that seems to happen once treatments prove successful, at least from what I've seen over the years.

Re: Example
  • 8/22/2014 4:12:43 PM
NO RATINGS

For some reason, that doesn't seem to be the top priority of most of these companies. Strange.

Sharing on sepsis
  • 8/22/2014 4:07:09 PM
NO RATINGS

@Jim, it sounds like Dignity Health is being really smart about how to get to where it wants/needs to be with analytics. Whenever I hear about analytics projects like the one Dignity Health is undertaking on better understanding sepsis, I do hope that the findings will become available for all health systems -- or that other health systems are able to add in their data, too, if that helps the cause. Did Colorafi give any indication whether there'd be collaboration with health organizations outside of the Dignity Health system?

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