RESEARCH & RESOURCES

Visualize the Path to Healthcare Savings

By Kathleen Goepferd, Tableau Software


In a recent white paper, “The ‘Big Data’ Revolution in Healthcare: Accelerating Value and Innovation,” McKinsey & Company estimated that data-driven insights could enable up to $450 billion in reduced U.S. healthcare costs without compromising outcomes.

The authors identified the following pathways to these potential savings:

  • Right living: Encouraging patients to make healthier choices
  • Right care: Ensuring that patients receive the most appropriate, timely care
  • Right provider: Selecting providers with the best skill set match and proven outcomes
  • Right value: Continuously improving cost-effectiveness of care
  • Right innovation: Improving not just care and therapies, but innovation centers as well

As the title of the white paper makes clear, harnessing the power of data is the key to success. Innovative data visualization tools can help you capture your share of these savings.

Right Living

Data visualization can help you quickly identify and provide increased support to patients making less desirable choices.

Jennifer Hayden, IT analyst at Louisiana Breast and Cervical Health Program, is using data visualization to identify patients missing recommended follow-up exams.

“Who are the women who are extending their time longer than the recommended 18 months for rescreening mammograms? We dig deep into patient info for quality control, finding trends, and working on program evaluation,” she said.

Right Care

The move from a fee-for-service payment model to an outcome-driven reimbursement model makes tracking and managing quality metrics crucial. Using data visualization to identify problems more quickly allows you to enact improvements before your reimbursement is affected.

Southern Maine Medical Center (SMMC) data analyst Jonathan Drummey has made data visualization a core part of the community hospital’s quality initiatives, using a tool to visualize quality measures that affect reimbursement from Medicare.

“We can identify where we’re performing and also where we’re not meeting the target. That way, we can address it in a timely fashion before the end of the measure,” he said. “Being able to act on it on a more timely basis lets us actually meet the measure in a better fashion.”

Right Provider

You can steer patients toward the most suitable provider and identify providers with the best outcome measures using data visualization.

Kaleida Health, the largest healthcare provider in Western New York, used data visualization to identify a trend of Medicaid patients making emergency room visits for nonemergency health problems such as headaches and fevers. The project took only a day but identified a great opportunity for savings. “The next thing you know, it was a local news story, using the data that we pulled from our data visualization tool,” said Jennifer Kuebler, corporate analyst at Kaleida.

SMMC is using data visualization to easily understand and manage large quantities of quality metrics for its hundreds of physicians. “We’re tracking over 1,500 metrics at this point … our data visualization tool lets us take in all of that data, identify outliers, and help performance improve in the hospital,” Drummey said.

Right Value

Data visualization can help you identify opportunities to improve efficiency and deliver savings. For example, Seattle Children’s used data visualization to identify ways to improve efficiency, effectively increasing capacity.

“For all intents and purposes we created more beds, even though we didn’t physically build them,” said Drexel DeFord, senior vice president and chief information officer at Seattle Children’s.

Right Innovation

Finally, data visualization can help streamline R&D productivity, lowering costs of development and speeding time to market. Biotech consultants Advanced Bio-Logic Solutions (ABLS) attribute roughly 25 percent of the cost of developing a drug to the enrollment of subjects in a clinical trial study.

“Using a data visualization tool helps clients to make decisions on the fly,” said ABLS CEO Jeff Epstein. “When you can make better, more active decisions on the fly and have oversight of the clinical research organizations or multiple sites that you’re conducting, then it will absolutely increase the enrollment process.”

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