At University of Colorado Health (UCHealth), continuous process improvement relies upon effective data usage and integration with the enterprise EHR system. Over the past year, UCHealth has leveraged data science to significantly improve resource utilization in cancer treatment. Now the health system is taking a comparable approach to operating room (OR) scheduling in a project that will roll out through the latter part of next year.
At a cancer treatment infusion facility, UCHealth optimizes scheduling to “level load” patients throughout the day and maximize chair usage. Daily reports, shared during staff huddles, indicate where unexpected patients can be added and when to expect peak loads. Additional performance reports include historic data and highlight areas for further improvement.
This merging of Lean production practices with data analytics has yielded 15 percent lower waiting times for cancer treatment patients — 33 percent lower at peak hours — amid a 16 percent increase in patient volume. What’s more, staff overtime dropped by 28 percent due to optimized scheduling.
The OR project will similarly mine data to maximize surgical resources across five hospitals.
And the forward thrust will lead to new opportunities, according to CIO Steve Hess: “So, inpatient is the natural next place to go after OR. But don’t stop there, think about radiology and imaging, think about lab tests, pharmacy needs, ambulatory clinics … Frankly, the canvas is blank in terms of what you can do with machine learning combined with process improvement philosophies.”
Areas of improvement
Sue Schade, recently identified as one of the “most powerful women in healthcare IT” by Health Data Management and currently interim CIO at University Hospitals in Cleveland, is a strong believer in “visual management” techniques that can help identify systems’ priorities. Her Lean-rooted philosophy takes aim at areas such as reducing cycle times, eliminating preventable incidents, decreasing variation, and increasing coordination and communication between teams.
Data derived from tracking systems helps hospital leadership zero in on the causes of major incidents to prevent reoccurrence and provides performance metrics that can be shared across departments.
Schade quotes from the book The Lean IT Field Guide, “If a picture is worth a thousand words, information made visible in the workplace is priceless.”
Simplifying healthcare data integration
However promising any improvement strategy may be, it would not be possible without properly formatted and integrated data. NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange meets this challenge by moving clinical and financial data among disparate systems within the healthcare ecosystem.
HealthData Exchange uses a “map once, use many” method — as opposed to custom point-to-point interfaces — to enable the sending and receiving of data to/from all of an organization’s providers and vendors. Connected hospitals and physician practices instantly have access to dozens (and potentially hundreds) of providers and vendors through pre-defined integrations.
And because it’s built and optimized for cloud deployment, HealthData Exchange incorporates redundancy and security at every level. The network currently processes more than 10 million data and document transactions per month, while enabling individual users with the means to proactively monitor all connections.