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Business Intelligence ("BI") - Without True Business Intelligence, How Much Intelligence Can an Organization Have?

December 26, 2008
by Rich Temple
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With all the technology investments health care organizations are contemplating, I believe none can be more important than establishing a robust, far-reaching business intelligence platform, and ensuring that all stakeholders actually USE the platform. BI provides actionable information about all facets of an organization’s operation – from the clinical, the financial, and the truly operational perspective. Organizations that lack an ability to really understand the strengths and weaknesses of different components of their product/service offering are not going to be able to enforce appropriate accountability and target investment in a way that maximizes the potential for positive returns. Everything we do has to have a BI component (you can’t manage what you can’t measure!).

 

And, yes, in my current role, it is refreshing that I have both a CEO and a CFO who “get it”. My current company, AristaCare Health Services, is going through a major RFP process for all manner of different “state of the art” clinical and financial systems. As the price tags start rolling in, we will all be mindful of not only the richness of functionality and ease of staff use of the proposed solutions, but also of how the systems being proposed will give us the kind of window into all facets of our operation that we need to properly manage and lead.

 

Back when I was the CIO at Saint Clare’s Health System in Denville, NJ, we implemented via “big bang” the Cerner Millennium clinical information system. As part of the package, we purchased - and became very early adopters of - Cerner’s PowerInsight tool (which is basically either ‘Business Objects on Steroids” or “Business Objects in Cerner-ese”, depending on your perspective). As a huge believer in the criticality of getting more than just an EMR or a giant data warehouse-ful of clinical data, I fought hard for this BI concept and got it included in the solution we purchased. However, early on, although our IT department put together some very nice packages of real-time reports that we were asked to do presentations about in both national and regional conferences, it was a surprisingly large challenge to actually get both our mid-level managers and senior leadership to inculcate these reports into their day-to-day lives.

 

What was the lesson from this experience? Bi has to be both so easy to access that dashboards customizable to the user pop open virtually automatically upon log-in and the metrics furnished have to provide critical data regarding a specific strategic or business initiative that someone is carefully monitoring. I tracked who was looking at what and I reported those stats to senior management, since I believed utilization of key intelligence was a bellwether of the effectiveness of a manager. An organization’s BI program will only add real value if people are actually looking at the data and using it to make enlightened clinical and business decisions.

 

BI must be more than a robust software package; it must be part of an organizational cultural transformation that mandates the use of live business data for all key decisions. All roads should lead through the BI package, so to speak.

 

Two significant projects led to our PowerInsight endeavor really taking off. The VP in charge of the Emergency Department made extensive use of our tools to track the success of the “30 Minute Door-to-Doc” program we had in place for our primary ED (http://www.saintclares.org/news/news.aspx?nid={732D0433-DC16-49F3-8BE5-C74932365AE7}). The other project was embraced by Nursing Leadership to automatically measure compliance with our pressure ulcer control model to ensure patients were being “turned” every two hours in accordance with best clinical practice. The “buzz” around these two success stories helped more clearly articulate the value proposition around BI.

 

Tip: get those “wins” as described above, and spread the word. Be evangelical about BI in meeting with your organization’s leadership. Have those “use cases” at your fingertips. Work closely with your customers/users and understand their needs and proactively bring BI tools to the table for their review. Let them kick the tires on it and see where it all goes.

 

My journey into “long-term care” business intelligence is just beginning and I can’t wait to see how it is going to positively impact our residents, our associates and other stakeholders, and our leadership!

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Comments

Rich,
Thanks for sharing your observations. I appreciated this one:

"... it was a surprisingly large challenge to actually get both our mid-level managers and senior leadership to inculcate these reports into their day-to-day lives. "

and the elaborating of the ED and Nursing management work.

In retrospect, are you satisfied with the extend of exploitation of the tool? It seems like you've earned the right to be proud, and, you may have been lucky to have two business owners step up. Were your CEO and CFO expecting less or more?

Also, did you make use of control charts to display the operation run performance?

Good morning, all. Thanks for the insight into this posting. Daphne, I think your point is very well taken as far as the possible drawbacks of vendor-based BI tools, but the one VERY compelling advantage that drove me was that the integration between the clinical information system itself (Cerner) and the BI "universe" was so tight, it allowed for an incredible ease of developing robust reports. Also, since the Cerner tool was really "Business Objects" with a Cerner-flavor, we weren't getting a proprietary solution but one that was truly familiar to many.

Joe, in response to your questions, I was reasonably happy but not thrilled with the user uptake of this tool. It had huge impact where it was used and was widely acknowledged to be an extremely valuable tool in our toolkit. More often than not, if we weren't aggressively monitoring the traffic to the BI site and reporting on it, you would see -off of utilization by both mid-level and senior leaders. Hence, the imperative to truly weave BI into the fabric of an organization's culture.

The happiest of holidays to both of you!

Rich, so good to hear about BI from a user's POV. I just interviewed some CIOs, though, who told me using the BI solution from their enterprise vendor (Cerner in your case) can have drawbacks due to the constant changes in hospital's IT. But all agreed that culture change was importantand interestingly, mirrored your comment that the way to move forward in BI is to do those use cases and build on that success.

Rich Temple

Chief Information and Business Intelligence Officer, AristaCare Health Services

Rich Temple is the Chief Information and Business Intelligence Officer for AristaCare Health...