View from the Bridge

Enterprise Analytics: A Journey more than a Destination.

By Rich Pollack, Advisor

Our industry is slowly winding down from the frenetic pace of EMR implementations the past 10 years and now looks to derive the sophisticated insight needed to address a new climate of measured value in care.

Institutions and leadership are turning their focus evermore on the use of analytics to derive that insight and intelligence. After all, leadership feels we are now awash in data from decades of automating all the paper processes of the past. The electronic medical record being the most recent manifestation of that.

We learned (sometimes painfully) that deploying an EMR product without the concurrent efforts around transformation will not work. As IT leaders, we must embrace the need to create a supportive ecosystem of analytics while pursuing the build or buy of any specific enterprise data warehouse product.

It’s fine to get started on an analytics platform, but like most other things in HIT, the technology alone solves nothing. You need to concurrently create the supportive ecosystem of organizational structure, leadership buy in, specialized skills, data ownership/stewardship etc.

The integrity of much of our data (registration, patient identity, billing and clinical) is often sub-optimal. To put it another way, “dirty”. If you think your system cannot allow care to begin on a mis-identified patient, you are mistaken.

Data is truly a valued asset. If not managed properly with an eye to improving its quality, it will quickly de-value and folks will question the validity (often with good cause) of the analysis they’re getting from recently implemented EDWs. Evaluating and selecting a new EDW solution is relatively quick and easy. Putting in place the supportive ecosystem including executive level buy in and participation in Data Governance is hard work and takes much longer.

I’ve traveled that road. It can be done and, in the end, helps move everyone toward being a data driven organization.

Upon arrival in late 2005 as the new CIO for a large academic medical center, my focus was naturally consumed with completing and expanding the reach and depth of our system wide EMR.

Analytics, such as they were, was serviced by a 5 person “Decision Support” group that generated operational reports for the organization primarily based upon financial and patient billing data extracted from our revenue cycle application and placed into a standard star schema database. We later migrated that system from a mainframe application to client server on an Oracle database with Cognos toolset.

Beginning in 2009 and seeing the future need for a “center of excellence” around Analytics, I set about laying the foundation to what would become (7 years later) an 18 person “Enterprise Analytics” (EA) department reporting to the corporate level VP of Strategy. That journey encompassed:

  • Enlisting the support of my CEO
  • Developing a convincing educational effort to elevate the understanding and buy in of my executive peers ( a 2 year effort)
  • Engaging a well-known consultant that had extensive experience and success with analytics in an academic medical center to validate my go forward strategy
  • Crafting an organizational model that pulled in multiple separate silos of analytics/data warehouse operations and selling that to senior leadership along with a robust Data Governance process led by the COO.
  • Identifying potential leadership talent within the group and elevating that person with a strong external expert hired to mentor the new director for his first year.
  • Recruiting and developing a larger talent pool with expertise in data architecture and extract/transform/load (ETL) tools
  • Crafting a unique direct feed of the EMR data into an expanded EDW in real time and complimenting that with the transfer of EMR reporting resources to the new EA team.
  • Collaborating with the clinical research community to leverage the vast clinical data in the EDW to support grant driven research, including structured genomic data.

Do not make the mistake of pursuing some BI/BigData/Analytics product or solution without first laying out the strategic roadmap for a supportive ecosystem of people, process and governance and having a collective and passionate understanding of your goals.

Absent “passion” by the CIO and leadership colleagues, this journey goes nowhere.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *