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Data Driven Decision Making in Missouri

October 25, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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When considering its recent analytics investment, there are two things to know about Phelps County Regional Medical Center (PCRMC), a Rolla, Mo.-based rural health system with a 242-bed hospital and several outlying clinics.

One, the health system has a history of aggressive investment in technology. According to chief health informatics officer, Jeff McKune, the organization has not only had an electronic health record (EHR) system for 12 years, but it has also taken a leadership role in bringing in sophisticated imaging technology.

Furthermore, McKune says around the time he got to PCRMC, the organizational leaders starting philosophizing that the best way to make decisions was through data. Rather than relying on folks for experience or intuition, he says, the provider wanted to look at data analysis to guide the decisions.

Secondly, and related to that first point, the organization is focused squarely on using information technology to better serve the patients and grow the business. For this reason, McKune says he was appointed CHIO, and not just CIO.

“It’s not just about having the information, it’s about how you use it, how it integrates into the business, and how it guides decision making,” McKune says. “There’s a lot of usage on both the information and the clinical side on the information we collect and share.”

These two reasons will give outsiders the proper perspective when trying to understand the organization’s buy of an analytics system from the Chelmsford, Mass.-based Datawatch. Leaders at the organization understood that using analytics was the next-level of healthcare informatics and a necessary investment. While McKune loves the organization’s Meditech (Westwood, Mass.) EHR, the version PCRMC has isn’t proficient at extracting data for the purpose of analytics

The Datawatch system gives PCRMC the ability to automatically extract data from a variety of different sources within that organization and turn it into a summarized report in Excel. The data can be analyzed and shared across multiple layers of coordinated care. It works in conjunction with its EHR. Meditech has a proprietary internal data repository that connects with the clinical system. Anything recorded in the medical record is moved into the data repository, which can be written in Microsoft SQL Server. The SQL Server can be hit “very easily,” with the data pump.

Upon installation, the software system was so popular that it presented PCRMC with a minor budget problem. Everyone wanted a piece of the action.  The organization couldn’t afford to give everyone their own copy, so instead it convinced the board of directors to spend some additional funds on a data pump. The data pump essentially works the same way as the actual system. All the end-user has to do different is drop their report into a folder.

“It’s very, literally a data pump. It picks up data from any source, translates and restructures that data, and then distributes by just about any means you’d care to do,” McKune says.

The system has been in place for 15-16 months, says McKune. Not only does it give PCRMC a better basis for comprehensive data analysis, but it creates efficiency. The system allows providers to go through a 4,000 page CPT (current procedural terminology) report within seconds to get their desired information. In a paper world, that just can’t happen.

For McKune, the work has just begun. He says the organization hasn’t “fully tapped” into use of the system. It has plans to build an enterprise data warehouse that could cross-pollinate information and pull it together for a better sense of population health. With approximately 60 terabytes of data being backed up each day, PCRMC has a lot of data to analyze and use for decision-making. The analytics system can help do that for them.