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How Providence St. Joseph Health is Moving Along on its Data Transformation Journey

June 18, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal
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“What health systems need to do is recognize that digital health is here to stay and that data is a foundation for that ecosystem to be sustainable”

A PSJH senior executive discusses the chief data officer role, how the health system is making better use of its data, what’s new on the analytics front, and how challenging PSJH’s innovation journey has been thus far.

At Seattle-based Providence St. Joseph Health (PSJH), innovation and digital transformation are key enterprise themes as the organization’s senior IT executives continue to push forward into new healthcare technology endeavors. To this end, about two-and-a-half years ago PSJH—a health system that includes Providence Health & Services and St. Joseph Health, with facilities in Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington—hired Vijay Venkatesan as the system’s senior vice president and chief data officer.

Venkatesan, who before coming to PSHJ was working at Northern California-based Sutter Health as the vice president of enterprise data management, recently spoke to Healthcare Informatics about what the chief data officer role entails, how PSJH is staying ahead of the curve to make better use of its data, what’s new on the analytics front, and how challenging the health system’s innovation journey has been thus far. Below are excerpts of that discussion.

What is involved in your role as chief data officer? What are the core responsibilities?

My role is about how to create a climate for leveraging data as an asset. And what does “data as an asset” mean? Are we able to land information, harmonize information, and then make it available for the various uses of the data that people have? For example, when you think about data in healthcare, it is about connecting the patient experience, how to create that patient experience across the continuum, and making sure it is available for the various data users. And then make sure that by using that information, we are able to drive better care quality and patient experiences on the other end.

Vijay Venkatesan

What is involved in “creating a climate for leveraging data” and what are some strategies for transforming the data culture?

In the healthcare setting, because of legacies or histories for how we have [developed] systems, there are various IT systems. You have multiple EHRs (electronic health records) and ancillary systems, meaning data is all over. So how do you create a cultural transformation of the data? The first thing we had to work on when I came onto the role at PSJH was figuring out how to get people to say, “Can we become shared producers and shared consumers of the data?” So if different data repositories exist across the system, how do you create a way to get that data in one place?

What we did was embrace the big data paradigm. We created a data lake where we invited our other data asset owners to contribute their data into the lake, in exchange for data they want or don’t have access to. So we created a culture of convergence, to bring data in one place and share each other’s information so that the collective organizations benefit.

The second step we are working on is creating a harmonizing data layer—think about it as your iTunes data catalog, where your albums in iTunes are categorized by rock, pop, alternative, etc. It’s the same idea. Now that we have data in one place, how do we create albums from the data? So an album could be a view of the organization’s financials, or a view of the clinical care quality side, or the revenue cycle, or the supply chain, or pharmacy. Think about it as albums with galleries. So that’s the transition we are in around thinking about data as an organizational asset.

Data and analytics is clearly a key part of what you do. In what ways are PSJH leveraging analytics to improve care and for population health purposes?

On the population health side, we have built a platform called Community Pathways to Health, which looks at Medicare and Medicaid populations at-risk, tries to organize them by the level of risk each patient has, and then we [find out], what are the right ways to engage those patients?

In that context, we are also embedding social determinants of health to create a risk score or predictive score to say, how do we look at our limited resources and what’s the best way to apply them across the patient population we have so we can effectively manage their care?

On the other side, we are also building a mobile-first strategy where we are looking at building a no-show app for our clinics, as no-shows are significant in healthcare since there is a big cost burden associated with them. So we built a mobile app running as compliment to the EHR where the urgent care staff can see a prediction on which patients might not show up for an appointment and then call them to try to get them to come in.

And on top of that, we are working on a model to see if we can “double book,” just like airlines double book seats. Can we find a way to effectively manage that slot better? And we are using artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and a predictive and mobile strategy to do all of that together. So far, we have reduced cancelations by 10 to 15 percent, which is significant for some of these clinics.

When thinking about this type of innovation and data transformation, how much of a driver is the transition to value-based care?


2018 Seattle Health IT Summit

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October 22 - 23, 2018 | Seattle