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Transforming Data into Directives

July 24, 2008
by Mark Hagland and Daphne Lawrence
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Operational intelligence innovations are breaking down performance-improvement barriers

What to call it? As clinicians and IT executives at patient care organizations apply business intelligence to clinical and operational improvement efforts, a variety of terms are emerging to describe the phenomenon. Some are simply using phrases such as “business intelligence for clinical care,” and the like. Others are using the term “clinical intelligence,” when applied to patient care; and still others refer to “operational intelligence” as a broad catch-all.

At HCI, we've settled on “operational intelligence” to describe this phenomenon in its broadest terms. But whatever one calls it, one thing is clear: the phenomenon is moving forward, and more quickly than might even have been anticipated a few years ago. Pushed on by external factors, including pay-for-performance initiatives, intensifying demands for accountability and transparency on the part of purchasers and payers, and straitened reimbursement, operational intelligence work is proliferating at hospitals and health systems.

And, as with just about every phenomenon in healthcare, virtually every patient care organization is approaching this in a different way, using disparate sets of tools and gathering varied constellations of people to execute on a variety of initiatives. At base, though, two trends are evident. First, this phenomenon is intensely data-driven, and therefore, has become a top-of-the-agenda item for CIOs. And second, the kinds of data being gathered, analyzed, and plowed back into performance improvement span the realms of financial, administrative and operational, and clinical. In many cases, in fact, hospital-based organizations are engaging in initiatives that have goals spanning all these categories and issues.

Whatever they're pursuing, leading organizations in the industry need CIOs to strategize on behalf of these efforts, and to facilitate. Without good data, produced correctly and abundantly and managed expertly, data-driven improvement efforts will go nowhere fast.

In this cover story package, two sections follow. In section one, we look at data-driven patient care improvement initiatives. And in section two, we examine how dashboard-type mechanisms are helping CIOs and other C-suite executives make financial and administrative decisions in a more timely way.

If ever there were an arena that called for strategic CIO leadership, this was it. Data-driven performance improvement is destined to move forward, whatever it's called.
(From left to right) bringham and women's hospital's michael gustafson, m.d., vp for clinical excellence and executive director of quality and safety; sue schade, vp and cio; and tejal gandhi, m.d., executive director of quality and safety

(From left to right) Bringham and Women's Hospital's Michael Gustafson, M.D., VP for clinical excellence and executive director of quality and safety; Sue Schade, VP and CIO; and Tejal Gandhi, M.D., executive director of quality and safety

Healthcare Informatics 2008 August;25(8):56-57