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Up and Comers 2016: Tableau: Data Visualization Catching on in Healthcare

May 18, 2016
by David Raths
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Each year, to accompany our Healthcare Informatics 100 list of the largest companies in U.S. health information technology, we pick six fast-growing companies that we think could have a significant impact on the industry in the years ahead. Indeed, some of our picks have gone on to much bigger and better things. A 2013 pick, Health Catalyst, is having a major impact in the data warehouse and analytics space. Another from that year, Explorys, is now part of IBM Watson Health. One of the companies we chose in 2014, Evolent Health, is now publicly traded. This year, promising approaches include applying machine learning algorithms to clinical variation and the move to web services to address interoperability.

Most companies chosen for our Up and Comers List are startups that have caught fire recently because they address a pain point in the provider space. Tableau Software Inc. is a different case. Founded in 2003, Seattle-based Tableau is an established and publicly traded company that offers data visualization products focused on business intelligence. We include them here because the company is becoming an increasingly important player in the healthcare field. Indeed, Andy De, the company’s managing director and global general manager for healthcare and life sciences, said healthcare is the fastest-growing vertical market for Tableau, although the company does not release revenue figures by vertical market.

Andy De

De says Tableau is growing so fast in healthcare because it helps C-level executives as well as clinicians easily see data that has for years been siloed by department or business unit. “The challenge is, given the diverse landscape in healthcare, how do you draw a 360-degree version of the truth around processes, which is critical to drive decision making at the point of care and to drive everything from supply chain management and revenue cycle management to population health management? The beauty of Tableau is that we have over 50 different kinds of data connectors built into the software and we are not stack-specific; we are stack agnostic.”

Some BI tools require a level of sophistication to use, but Tableau’s ease of use and flexibility allow it to be used by doctors and nurses, De says. “Most healthcare providers have invested $15 million to $20 million on legacy BI software, which is built for a different era,” De says. “Tableau is virtually the only analytics software built for the data knowledge worker or consumer.” In January 2015, KLAS Research placed Tableau among the top BI vendors for healthcare. Respondents in the KLAS survey called Tableau one of the simplest visual analytics products to use.

He gave an example from Mount Sinai Health System, whose director of BI deployed Tableau to empower physicians and nurses. An emergency department physician played around with data after hours and uncovered $125 million in revenue leakage within weeks. The chief financial officer has institutionalized his discovery to monitor denials management, De says. In another case, De says Providence Health has created its own operational analytics platform built on Tableau. It has allowed Providence to aggregate data from 11 different data sources, and standardize on 40 standard reports, with incentives aligned to drive accountability, utilization, and quality.

In addition to picking up market share in the healthcare space, Tableau has been working on integrating its visual analytics tools with tools from EHR vendors. In 2015 it announced integrations with Cerner’s population health and data warehouse offerings. 

This year it announced a technology agreement with Epic that will allow customer-created Tableau workbooks and dashboards to be integrated with Epic’s EMR.

Another metric of Tableau’s significance is the US News and World Report “Honor Roll” of the best hospitals in this country. “Of the 16 listed in 2016,” De says, “15 are Tableau customers.”