Effective Data Usage for Quality and Care Improvement

Health care organizations have more data than ever and are struggling to determine what to measure and how to use it for improvement. Data is a critical component of decision-making in health care, and ensuring that accurate data is used properly is necessary for any reform effort a system might undertake. According to Don Berwick, president emeritus of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, “there is a gap between the [data] measurement enterprise and the care enterprise.” Southcentral Foundation has developed effective infrastructure for handling data, and this has in turn led to improved quality and customer care.

For some time, Southcentral Foundation’s data analysis was fragmented, and many people in our organization had a misconception that data analysis was a function of IT. Or, as is the case with many health care organizations, SCF’s high-performing providers were working on IT issues caused by the EHR. With support and direction from senior leadership, SCF embarked upon a reform effort. We developed a data services department and brought data analysis out from under the IT umbrella. We developed a central repository for all data which allows for linkage between multiple operating systems. We employed specialized analysts who developed relationships with various areas of SCF such as the clinics, HR, Finance, and Operations. We developed a web-based reporting tool that displays up-to-date data. And we implemented our Data Management Model, which operationalizes measures that are identified through the voice of the customer and our strategic planning process.

Today, SCF effectively tracks many different measures in its health care system, marking a clear departure from the practices of the past. SCF tracks things such as health outcomes for patients and provider performance over time. The data can be segmented to gain additional perspectives on outcomes, cost, improvement trends over time, and effectiveness. Models can also be created to predict outcomes based on current data; this can not only be used to evaluate current patients, but also new patients who have never been seen at SCF. This has been a valuable tool for SCF’s primary care clinics. We use Integrated Information Teams, which are multidisciplinary teams of subject matter experts, to convert data into actionable information.

At SCF, our data processes have helped us identify not only parts of the system needing improvement, but also parts of the system working well that we could learn from and use to improve in other areas. The data systems we have built are part of what has allowed us to build and maintain our system of relationship-based care which has led to improved customer health.