Health care organizations evaluate themselves using many key performance indicators (KPI), such as patient satisfaction, patient safety, staff-to-patient ratio, and patient wait time. Business intelligence (BI) software is one of the tools organizations can use to improve these metrics and others. BI tools allow organizations to create visualizations and reports using data from patient questionnaires and surveys, electronic health records, and other sources. The insights revealed by BI can help an organization improve patient outcomes, increase profits, and enhance the patient experience.
Treating patients is the primary responsibility of every health care organization, and acting on insights derived from BI tools can improve patient outcomes.
Health care organizations must balance the need to keep patients in-house as long as medically required with the need to make the most of the limited space they have available. Releasing patients too soon can lead to medical complications, while keeping them too long may be a sign of organizational inefficiency. BI tools allow organizations to determine whether patients are staying for the targeted period of time. For example, managers can sort data on average stay length by condition to see whether the target stay lengths for patients with those ailments are being met.
Health care organizations need to know whether treatments are successful, so they can evaluate and adjust their care practices and provide follow-up treatment as needed. However, obtaining accurate data on patient outcomes can be difficult, as patients often recover at home and may not contact the health care organization again, even if they experience complications.
Organizations can use surveys and follow-up calls to gather data for determining overall treatment success, and, if patients do come back for further treatment, organizations can collect data and reconcile it with that on other patients' past stays. BI reports can then reveal which types of treatments have been most successful. Health care organizations can use these insights to improve their treatment practices, evaluate drug efficacy, and inform staffing decisions.
Patient safety is therefore a critical KPI for health care organizations — the last thing an organization wants is to exacerbate a patient's condition, or cause a patient to develop a new one. BI tools allow health care organizations to track safety issues. For example, a BI tool could produce a visualization displaying all complications over the past year by category, so that an organization could identify areas for improvement.
Readmissions are costly for organizations and unpleasant for patients. Health care organizations need to identify high-risk patients and provide them with the instructions and care they need so they aren't forced to come back for additional treatment soon after release. BI tools can sort readmission rate by condition or patient demographics, then administrators can implement practices focused on reducing preventable readmissions. Organizations can also use BI tools to track and analyze other KPIs, such as average length of stay, to see if they might point to reasons why preventable readmissions occur.
Health care organizations can use BI tools to become more efficient and profitable.
Health care organizations often have to manage many employees with varied roles and working hours. A hospital, for instance, typically has residents, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, interns, consultants, receptionists, and porters. Managers need a simple way to view and organize information for all of these employees to ensure the staff-to-patient ratio remains optimal.
BI tools can display information about a health care organization's diverse employee groups to provide a comprehensive view of operations. This allows managers to track and optimize scheduling, as well as determine whether any departments are over- or under-resourced, and adjust accordingly. For example, patient care might be negatively impacted by a lack of nurses during certain times of day. Managers can use BI reports to identify the low staff-to-patient ratio during these times and then make the necessary changes to meet demand.
Collecting receivables is a priority for any business, but health care organizations face some unique hurdles. Organizations must submit insurance claims to many external organizations with their own procedures and timelines. Health care organizations may also have to serve patients who are unable to pay, further complicating the process.
BI can provide a comprehensive view of the flow of funds within a health care organization across various KPIs, such as average claim processing time, the claims denial rate, and various other claim statuses. For instance, BI tools can reveal whether insurance companies are rejecting certain types of claims at a high rate or if they're taking an unusually long time to process them. The organization can then take steps to address these problems with the insurance companies to reduce any impact on patient satisfaction or its bottom line.
Like all businesses, health care organizations seek to keep expenses low while providing excellent service. Health care organizations can use BI tools to examine treatment costs across categories such as the condition treated or age group, and identify any anomalies. If treatment costs for a certain condition or group of patients is in excess of what the organization anticipated or budgeted, an administrator can drill down into the data and discover why.
Patient satisfaction is one of the most important barometers of success in health care. Patients seek out other providers if they're unhappy with the service they receive. Health care organizations can use the insights gained from BI tools to ensure the patient experience is as stress-free as possible.
One of the most common complaints that patients have when going to a hospital or clinic is wait time. Health care organizations have limited resources — only so many medical professionals are available to see patients at a given time — and deal with fluctuating demand. Removing bottlenecks to expedite the process can have a big impact on patient satisfaction.
BI tools can show where the patient management process is slowing down and suggest how to speed it up. Health care organizations can collect data on patient wait times through manual recording in an electronic health record (EHR) system, and they can even automate the process by using sensors and other monitoring technology to track patients throughout their visit. The data might indicate that receptionists are overwhelmed at certain times of day, or that patients are quickly moved into a room, but then are left waiting for a physician to attend them for a prolonged period. Once these hurdles are identified, management can allocate the resources necessary to overcome them, and even hire additional staff if necessary.
Patients need appointments at times that work for them, while health care organizations need to manage appointments to avoid being overwhelmed by demand. Failing to schedule patients' appointments in a timely manner can reduce their satisfaction or even negatively impact their health. Health care organizations can use BI reports and visualizations to track appointment wait time and optimize appointment management. BI can show trends behind appointment wait time during various times of the day, week, or year, and organizations can then address demand through additional hiring or scheduling changes.
Health care organizations often have a complex and diverse ecosystem of applications and data sources, which can make surfacing insights difficult. A data warehouse can centralize data so that managers and analysts can access all of it for use with BI software.