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Big Data Opportunities Set to Expand in Louisiana

December 3, 2014
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Statewide healthcare shared-services organization improves ability to track, report, and improve key measures for Louisiana hospitals through big data capabilities

Thirty years ago, ShareCor—a healthcare shared-services company that serves more than 100 hospitals via the Louisiana Hospital Association (LHA) and the Metropolitan Hospital Council of New Orleans (MHCNO)— started as a paper-based data collection and reporting company  in which its hospital members filled out and mailed in forms with problems that they needed solutions to.

Today, that same concept applies, but ShareCor has evolved, and has become the largest repository of all payer claims data available to hospitals in the state, with the ongoing mission to improve the financial viability of Louisiana’s hospitals through cost effective and innovative programs and services.

For roughly the last five years, ShareCor has been looking to give its members new, intuitive ways of doing data analysis and access to views they’ve never had before, according to the organization’s vice president, John Steckler. The need for a comprehensive big data platform was clear—the only question was where to get it from. “We spent time analyzing vendors and identifying service needs,” says Steckler. “Everything we do is driven by our members. Before we move into a venture, our member hospitals have to say this is where we want to go.”

Finally, ShareCor just recently tapped the Irving, Tex.-based Sandlot Solutions, chosen for its technology capabilities to help ShareCor and its members streamline clinical integration reporting services in order to support population health management. Sandlot Solutions’ technology will integrate and report on data from hospitals, physicians, other healthcare providers and health systems statewide. The system enhancements will allow for long-term tracking and reporting on relevant quality and population health measures, officials say.

 “Sandlot brings the technology to analyze data from areas we have not had the capability to analyze in the past. We see the ability to view clinical and administrative data within the construct of big data as essential for our members and the patients they serve,” Steckler says. “Our members will now be able to better serve the people of Louisiana by having access to these enhanced near-real-time data services.”

ShareCor will implement Sandlot’s data warehouse Sandlot Dimensions, with business intelligence powered by its big data platform. In addition to providing a portfolio of quality management reports, including accountable care organization (ACO), healthcare effectiveness data and information set (HEDIS) and physician quality reporting system (PQRS), Sandlot’s technology will enable ShareCor to examine clinical data collected statewide and make available near-real-time analytics specific to individual participating members, Steckler says.

What’s more, ShareCor runs the Louisiana Health Information Network, a statewide all-payer data sharing program which provides participating hospitals access to the most current, comprehensive patient-level data available, officials say. This brings together the data collection efforts of Louisiana healthcare facilities, LHA, and MHCNO, as well as public and private data and technology organizations to create one information resource. “Through the health information network, we process administrative claims data for our members, a data set that is very useful for analyzing physician practice patterns, determining population health needs (in the sense of what kinds of services belong where), physician recruitment, and readmissions analysis,” says Steckler.

John Steckler

Steckler further stresses the importance of real-time data capturing, and using that advantage to help ShareCor’s hospital members. “Right now, if a hospital has a penalty imposed on them by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for Medicare readmissions, there’s not a lot they can do about it in the short term based on current reporting solutions that are out there,” says Steckler. “For example, the PEPPER report (Medicare data reports provided to acute care hospitals) has a three-year rolling average, but that report comes out once a year and is so historic in nature that you can’t take any meaningful action from it. By having more timely data, a hospital can take action today to prevent financial penalties to themselves, while at the same time, improving the quality of care provided through their respective facilities. So it really improves the patient experience, reduces costs and improves outcomes for the hospitals,” he says.

The next step, continues Steckler, is predictive analytics. “We started off with historical data, then moved to near real time. Once we have enough of the volume, we can start applying predictive analytic modeling to identify likely candidates that may need special intervention to prevent readmissions,” he says. Steckler brings up an example from one of its members, in which the hospital was analyzing its own internal data, and found a pattern that when patients were using a particular payer and plan, they had a much higher rate of readmission than any other patient type in that facility. “Does that mean anything in and of itself? Not necessarily, but it gives you a point in which you can start exploring and a tool to begin analyzing things,” Steckler notes.

Beyond readmissions, Steckler hopes that the data platform will help hospitals with things such as community health assessments. While there are some limited data sets that allow for analytics to help with this, by expanding the data that they use, hospitals can more specifically identify population health needs, Steckler explains. “For example, if you have identified that you have a diabetes problem, you can start to round up resources to solve that. Your own data in and of itself is not the full picture. You need the whole repository to see the picture for their community to identify those needs,” he says.

Ambulatory-sensitive conditions are another example, Steckler notes. “There has been a big drive to reduce the number of ER visits for those things that could be treated in ambulatory surgery or in an outpatient doctor’s setting. Until those things can be specifically identified in community pockets, there’s just not a whole lot that can be done other than to anecdotally talk about them or do a ‘best guess’ estimate,” he says. “Data to drive those hard numbers will allow for more effective decision making.”

Additionally, every time a hospital or provider has to meet another data reporting mandate, there are significant costs that they experience in relation to that. Steckler says that from what he has seen over the years, even for the smallest facility doing a single interface, it might cost $5,000 on the low end, and $25,000 on the high end for a larger facility. “And right now, most of these hospitals and providers are limited to very specific data sets that they can report on,” he says.

“When you start multiplying those interfaces by the number of reporting compliance data sets that organizations need to produce—and how often those data sets get changed—you can see how the cost of healthcare, just in that IT arena, can be driven very significantly in a matter of seconds,” says Steckler. “[This partnership] will allow them to expand that repository to meet the needs they have for analytics internally and compliance reporting externally.”


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