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CASE STUDY - University of Utah, University Health Care: Business Intelligence Tips that Drive User Adoption and Increase Return On Investment

University Health Care


Salt Lake City, UT, USA

Core Business

Teaching hospital; primary healthcare and medical education.


To serve the public by improving health and quality of life, to meet cost and efficiency targets, and to comply with all necessary regulations.


FAST Radar


End users such as physicians and nurses are empowered to find the data they need for decision making.

Increased adoption rates: eight times more users access data than before.

Colorful personalized charts, dashboards and scorecards make data access intuitive and actionable.

Real-time delivery of reports and personal alerts based on thresholds set by the user.

Unified architecture built on Microsoft.NET ensures rapid implementation and minimal maintenance.

Increased ROI now that end users can create their own BI reports.

Commentary by Jim Livingston, Director of IT Infrastructure and the Data Resource Center, University of Utah Health Care

Healthcare in the western states doesn’t get much better than at University Health Care. The center, which manages all patient care services for the University of Utah, has been named one of America’s best hospitals by U.S. News & World Report—for 12 years running. The center has also been listed as one of the nation’s 100 most-improved hospitals for its gains in quality of care, operational efficiency, and financial performance.

With more than 850 physicians, the center cares for more than five million people in Utah and neighboring states and has an enviable reputation for academic excellence. Like almost all primary healthcare providers, though, University Health Care was under constant pressure to improve its quality of patient care, comply with a flurry of regulatory mandates, and ensure that it managed its assets and other resources as efficiently as possible.


University Health Care had no shortage of data. Its IT teams had built robust data warehouses to house data for everything from accounts payable to procedures ordered in intensive care. IT had created a communications system that allowed data to be combined across functions—to extract financial data and combine it with clinical data, for example. However, the data was not easily usable. The hospital’s business intelligence (BI) solutions were overly complicated for end users such as nurses and physicians. Two users seeking the same data could get very different answers. As such, adoption rates for the BI system were very low. The implications were clear not only for nurses anxious to avoid dangerous drug interactions but for surgeons responsible for improving operating room utilization. “We were giving people a taste of what was possible, but we were not penetrating the organization with information,” says data warehouse manager Cheri Hunter.


University Health Care had to find a solution that would encourage non-expert users to tap into its wealth of data. “More than 70 percent of our users are medical students, nurses, physicians, and so on. Most of them will not open a system they cannot use,” says Cheri Hunter.

It quickly became clear that an easy-to-use data portal would be the answer—a single sign-on solution whose dashboards and other visual methods of data presentation would provide actionable information at a glance for data-savvy analysts and non-expert users alike. The solution had to allow decision makers to receive personally relevant information through familiar interfaces such as Microsoft Excel or via e-mail. It also had to be easy to integrate, easy to implement—and easy on the IT budget.

The hospital’s IT leaders evaluated two solutions, including FAST Radar. Early proof-of-concept projects soon confirmed what early reviews had indicated: FAST Radar was exactly what was needed. The final seal of approval? When the new BI system was demonstrated to end users, it won instant acceptance. “Everybody said, ‘This isn’t so bad—we can do this ourselves.’ Our chief nursing director even said, ‘If I can do it, anyone can do it,’” recalls Hunter.


With FAST Radar on board, University Health Care managers are seeing significantly higher ROI numbers than were possible with the center’s incumbent technology. One example: today one full-time IT analyst creates reports for users, down from six previously. The new easy-to-use BI system has engaged a broader base of users—from facilities managers to nurses—which means they are making better-informed decisions and driving down costs in many departments.

FAST Radar has given the center’s professionals confidence in their data—as well as control. Its ease of use makes it simple for staff to build their own reports (no more spreadsheets needed). The Radar Write Back capability lets users update data directly to an operational database. Staff also has access to real-time data—critical for tasks such as utilization planning in Intensive Care, for instance. Physicians now use browserbased views of scorecards that track time utilization of facilities or schedule variances by site. Nurses now control what they are tasked to manage, ensuring, for example, that patient care orders are carried out in a timely manner and monitoring any alerts for potential adverse event.

“The biggest driver for us was to empower the end user. Now that we’ve done that, we’ve seen an explosion in usage,” says Director of IT Jim Livingston. Previously, the BI tool acquired in 1999 was being used by five report administrators and perhaps 80 occasional end users. Today, after just nine months, there are 400 active accounts on FAST Radar—two-thirds of them accessing the system 50 times each per month.

The new BI system also allows costs to be tracked more easily. In one case, a million dollars of charges in the labor and delivery unit have been properly reallocated. The BI tools have also helped staff to identify that anesthetic costs were not being billed correctly. “FAST has been a phenomenal success for us,” says Hunter.

Strategic Next Steps

Given the success of BI within University Health Care, the IT group is now evaluating the strategic steps needed to apply more advanced technology for increased efficiency and effectiveness. Part of the team’s evaluation includes FAST AIW, a solution in which business intelligence is based on search. AIW provides two critical features with significant value to health organizations: advanced data cleansing capabilities, and the ability to combine structured and unstructured data and creates associations between the two.

Like most Academic Health Centers, University of Utah Health Care has abundant information in text form but it cannot yet search the text fields and associate the results with the current BI initiatives. With the ability to do so, the center would have a 360-degree view of information in one place, saving time and providing users with more complete information. It will also enable users to uncover insights that otherwise would go undetected.

Why FAST Radar?

FAST Radar provides actionable information at a glance. Its robust browser-based dashboards and scorecards make it easy for non-expert users to get the facts they need in real-time—and to act on what they learn. It is easily scalable: with its open architecture, FAST Radar can scale up to match University Health Care’s needs, whether they involve research data for the teaching staff or patient tracking from the ER to intensive care. The solution needs minimal IT administration; built on the popular Microsoft .NET architecture, FAST Radar provides one integrated browser-based environment that requires very little ongoing maintenance. And it was very easy to implement: FAST Radar was installed in a matter of hours.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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