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The Texas Hospital Association’s Bold Data Analytics Thrust

October 4, 2017
by Mark Hagland
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The Texas Hospital Association’s chief digital officer reports on THA’s bold data initiative

It’s not only individual hospitals, medical groups, and health systems whose leaders are working to leverage data to improve outcomes and lower costs, in the current shift away from pure fee-for-service payment, and towards value, in the U.S. healthcare system; the leaders of associations of provider organizations are doing so as well.

One of the provider associations whose leaders are moving forward quickly in this area is the Austin-based Texas Hospital Association (THA). The THA’s leaders have steadily been developing a strategic data management framework for unifying patient records and exchanging information across the state. Based in Austin, THA is one of the largest hospital associations in the country, representing more than 85 percent of the state's acute-care hospitals and health care systems, which in turn employ some 365,000 health care professionals statewide.

Driven by its vision of a unified healthcare delivery system for Texas, THA is leveraging the EMPI solution from the Monrovia, California-based NextGate, in order to assess and analyze data from its member hospitals, in order to help them improve patient outcomes and reduce costs. The EMPI gives THA the ability to accurately match and link patient information in the absence of a common identifier, allowing providers to achieve a unified view of any patient across all facilities and health systems with the ability to share information, regardless of system, for improved care coordination.

Fernando Martinez, Ph.D., who is both senior vice president and chief digital officer of the Texas Hospital Association, and president and CEO of the Texas Hospital Association Foundation, the organization’s research and educational arm, spoke recently with Healthcare Informatics Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland regarding THA’s bold data analytics initiative. Below are excerpts from that interview.

Please tell me a bit about yourself and your role at the association and the foundation.

I’ve been with THA for three years, as of December 1. My background is as a turnaround CIO in healthcare; I’ve worked in healthcare since I was 16. I spent the first half of my career working in finance, including revenue cycle, and then transitioned from finance into running IT, and the last 15 years, I’ve worked as a turnaround CIO, primarily in public healthcare. The CEO at THA had been my former boss at Parkland Health System in Dallas, and also at Jackson Health System in Miami, before that.


Fernando Martinez

You’re the first chief digital officer at THA, correct? And what is your mission at the association?

Yes, that’s correct. And my core mission is not only to provide the technical platform from which to run the organization, but also to create, from a digital strategy point of view, a platform of data that will accurately allow our policy, advocacy and legislative folks to provide folks in the Legislature with recommendations that impact Texas hospitals. We’re very dependent on data. And one of the strategic objectives I’ve been asked to execute on has been building a statewide database that provides a longitudinal view of the data, including elements around costs, utilization, and quality, in order to help us support and advocate for, Texas hospitals.

What have been the challenges in creating that statewide database with a longitudinal view?

The most significant challenge has been the diversity of healthcare organizations in the state of Texas. I frequently interact with my peers at other state hospital associations; and it turns out that some associations don’t have the level of diversity around data, with regard to all the critical-access hospitals, that we have here in Texas. In Texas, we have a very large number of critical-access hospitals, a very large group of rural hospitals, a significant number of independent community hospitals; as well as some large for-profit hospitals, like Tenet, which is based here, and HCA, which has a strong presence; as well as many large not-for-profit hospitals. So the biggest challenge is representing the reality of all these diverse hospitals. And that’s challenging, because if getting 10 hospitals to agree to anything is challenging, getting 500 to do so is really challenging.

Can you share what the timeframe around this initiative has been?

Yes, it started a few months after I came, so we’ve been working on it for nearly two years.

And how long has it been live?

For between six months and a year.

What types of data does the database encompass?

It’s primarily claims data. This is a statewide, all-payer, longitudinal database, founded on claims data.

How is it being used?

The association is aggregating the data, and in terms of how it’s being used in the policy and advocacy arena, our policy folks, legislative team, and analysts working with state legislators, are the ones who consume the data and look at the trends, for policy people in the legislature. Meanwhile, some of our hospitals participate in the data program, which uses this longitudinal database as well.

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