WSJ: How big data is helping hospitals get better

One health system used Crimson to save nearly $14M, improve patient outcomes

The Wall Street Journal's Anna Wilde Mathews reports on why hospitals are using physician data to improve care and prepare for industry shifts, spotlighting how MemorialCare Health System used Crimson software to boost patient outcomes and save nearly $14 million.

  • What is Crimson—and how can it help my hospital? From billing systems to electronic medical records, there's no shortage of useful data—but where do you start?

    This video explains how Crimson Clinical Advantage is helping over 1,000 health care organizations turn the chaos of big data into big outcomes.

New technology helps hospitals track doctors' performance

Shifts in the U.S. health care system—partly brought on by the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—are pushing hospitals toward value-based payments and doctors toward performance-based salaries. Although these concepts have been debated before, hospital executives argue that new technology allows for better, faster tracking of individual physicians to ensure that they are meeting goals.

For instance, The Advisory Board Company's Crimson tools allow hospitals to track complications, readmissions, and cost measures for each physician, Wilde Mathews writes. Crimson uses a green, yellow, and red color system to identify physicians that are performing better than their peers, as well, or worse.

But for these efforts to succeed, hospitals must bring doctors—who make nearly all the key decisions on testing, treatment, and prescriptions—on board, Wilde Mathews writes. "The last frontier is physicians," says Thomas Heleotis, Monmouth Medical Center's vice president of clinical effectiveness.

Case study: How MemorialCare used Crimson to cut costs, improve care

At MemorialCare, a six-hospital system based in Fountain Valley, Calif., executives are using Crimson tools to track doctors' performance at its hospitals and other tools to track outpatient care provided by its affiliated physicians.

In an effort to align physicians with the system and get them on board with improvement efforts, feedback from the data is delivered to MemorialCare doctors in sessions led by fellow physicians. Meanwhile, doctors are encouraged to check their own data.

  • How MemorialCare fosters a data-driven physician culture: Our 2013 Physician Partnership Award winner created a 10-point strategic plan for implementing and executing on physician data transparency through Crimson. Learn more.

Tracking doctors' performance is "absolutely key" to improving MemorialCare's performance and its future growth potential, says CEO Barry Arbuckle, adding that wide variation among doctors is "extraordinarily costly."

According to MemorialCare, the data efforts and other programs:

  • Helped reduce the average stay for adult inpatients from 4.2 days in 2011 to four days in 2012;
  • Trimmed the average cost per admitted adult patient by $280, saving the system $13.8 million from 2011 to 2012; and
  • Reduced readmissions, mortality, and complications, and improved on other indicators of quality.

Meanwhile, the hospital's physician group improved its performance on a range of metrics. For instance, data in 2012 showed that 76% of patients received recommended shots, up from 56% in 2010.

Addressing doctors' concerns over 'big data' use

Marnie Baker, a pediatrician and leader of MemorialCare's new data strategy, says most physicians are receptive to the effort and work to improve their results. However, there are skeptics, Baker says.

"The whole way you get trained is to be the decider, the captain of the ship," says Michael Sills, a cardiologist and technology executive at Baylor Health Care System. He notes that data analysis means hospitals will be "monitoring their productivity, monitoring their costs. They're not going to like that one little bit."

"These measures really do help us take better care of patients."
- Dr. Marnie Baker, MemorialCare

Maged Tanios, an intensive-care specialist and medical director at MemorialCare, says doctors go through "stages of acceptance." He explains, "First is anger, 'Why is someone looking at my data?' Then denial, 'This is not my data!' Then acceptance."

Although some physicians worry that the data tracking will encourage physicians to turn away ill patients, Baker notes that all physicians have patients with difficult conditions who could affect their performance data. "These measures really do help us take better care of the patients," she says.

"Do we control physicians? We don't try to," adds Arbuckle. "We just try to use process and information to get them to that same point" (Wilde Mathews, Journal, 7/11).

How Big Data Led to Big Outcomes for MemorialCare

Hear directly from the 2013 Physician Partnership Award winner, MemorialCare Health System, about their successful plan for implementing and executing on physician data transparency through Crimson Clinical Advantage.




Or take a look at this popular infographic to see how MemorialCare Health System created a 10-point strategic plan for implementing and executing on physician data transparency through Crimson.





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