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  • Susan Snedaker

What Would You Do If You Knew?

How many times have you wondered what you might have done differently if you have more information, more accurate information, more timely information? The irony is that we're flooded with information every waking moment, and yet we often lack the information that really makes a difference.

Healthcare IT is evolving. The old days if HIT being about mainframes, 'big iron' or even data centers are over. Today, that's all relatively inconsequential in the bigger picture. Now, data is everything and we're swimming in data.

Surgical staff

Taking information and turning it into intelligence is what everyone strives to do. In healthcare, that's the mad dash right now. So, how are the leaders doing it?

In an article from Modern Healthcare, the headline is a bit misleading - Top health systems cultivate a culture of transparency. It's true, but if you read further, you see that what the leaders like St. Luke's have done is to put data in the hands of those who can use it to effect change.

"Data availability encouraged them to launch their Project Zero campaign. And in the past two years they've reduced the hospital's infection rate from 1.08 per 100 procedures to 0.57 per 100 procedures.

Dr. David Pate, CEO of St. Luke's Health, said the Project Zero program was an initiative the orthopedic surgeons began themselves. By allowing physicians to access data easily at any time, the culture shifted to one that motivated staff to develop their own goals. “Real progress is done at the service level,” Pate said. “They look at their specific data, and they set goals for themselves. It really moves the dial more broadly toward organizational goal-setting.”

Why does this matter? Because top performing hospitals have better statistics and those translate directly into better patient outcomes and lower patient mortality. The article continues:

Truven Analytics Top 15 Health Systems "were selected from 338 health systems across the U.S. Each was evaluated based on publicly available government data looking at nine performance measures, including death rates, complications, 30-day readmissions and lengths of stay. Complication rates at the top-performing systems were 15.1% lower than their peers. Mortality rates were 14.7% lower among the top-ranked hospitals."

So, if you're a patient, where do you want to go? A hospital whose mortality rate is 14.7% higher than these top systems? A hospital whose complication rates were 15.1% higher than these top systems? Of course not - but the vast majority of us WILL be admitted as patients to hospitals whose outcomes and mortality rates are not nearly as good. This is the power of turning information into intelligence, but it's not an "IT project."

Clearly, when you have the right data at the right time in the hands of the right people, change happens. That's the next big challenge for healthcare IT and "big" is an understatement. It's also exciting to know that we have the tools, the data and the ability to move the dial in a significant and meaningful way "simply" by leveraging what we already have - data.

Healthcare systems are flooded with data and sometimes that can be overwhelming. But ask a surgeon what she needs to reduce surgical site infections or ask a nurse what he needs to reduce pressure ulcers and suddenly those billions of bits and byte can be focused into clinical intelligence that can make the difference between life and death. That's the power of healthcare IT.

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