Data and Clinical Outcomes: How Qlik Is Empowering Clinical Staff With Analytics
Applying a data-driven approach to healthcare decisions creates amazing outcomes, both for the patient and the healthcare organization. But it also comes with unique challenges. Learn how we’re using data to empower clinicians and fuel innovation at Touchstone Health Services.
There’s a huge data literacy deficit among clinicians. But the problem isn’t with the clinical staff. Until recently, they lacked the tools to fully understand and implement data into their day-to-day jobs. With the shift that’s taking place across the country to move from a focus on volume of care to quality, having access to the right data can enable clinicians to make choices that have a positive impact on the health of patients and on the business of healthcare.
Last September, Touchstone Health Services made a conscious decision to use data to increase the value of care delivery and extend this value to a greater number of patients. The driving force of this initiative would be the newly formed analytics team—and that’s where I came in.
A Cultural Shift
It’s always been the goal of Touchstone to provide the absolute best care that we can with minimal financial impact on our payers (we are a registered 501(c)3 non-profit) and our members (patients). With all the political uncertainty around the future of healthcare in the United States, the focus on value is becoming increasingly critical to the survival of clinical institutions.
This political unease combined with the introduction of a data-driven approach can leave many clinicians feeling anxious, and rightfully so. These are brilliant people who have spent years learning and training, and now they’re being asked to question their methods and take a hard look at their processes and practices. That’s why it’s vital to address the underlying culture of the organization if you’re considering implementing a new technology or tactic.
At Touchstone, we’ve been incredibly lucky in this regard. While we did have a few individuals push back when we first implemented our analytics solution, the majority of our staff has embraced this new approach. In fact, when we announced it, there was actual applause.
Now, there is a fine line between support and adoption. Without the right training, it’s easy for people to fall back into their comfort zone. That’s why my approach is to tailor the training to fit their learning style so employees can easily grasp new technology and hit the ground running.
From lunch-and-learns to 1:1 hands-on instruction to traditional classroom education, we offer employees every opportunity to find their “aha moment,” the moment when their eyes light up and insights are revealed.
Before we dive too deep into training, however, I’ll spell out exactly how Touchstone went about accessing critical data, and the steps we’re taking to make this data actionable.
Accessing the RIGHT Data
Like most organizations that take on an initiative like this, we thought we had all the data we needed—but we were wrong. All our data was spread across many disparate sources, and no matter what workarounds we hacked together to pull it into one place, we couldn’t create a repeatable process that was easy to use.
We decided there was a need for a Business Intelligence (BI) tool to aggregate all our data and present it in a way that was understandable and, most importantly, actionable. That led our Director of I.T. to consider a few of the major players in this space: Tableau, Microsoft Power BI, Yellowfin, and Qlik.
Our top requirements were:
- The ability to connect to multiple data sources.
- User friendly.
- Easy to use interface.
- The price had to be right (getting the most value for our dollar).
- Being in the health industry, HIPAA compliance was paramount, so we needed a tool providing us with control of the security.
After evaluating each vendor, one stood out from the rest: Qlik.
With Qlik we could easily connect all our separate databases—Electronic Health Records, Human Resource/Payroll software, internal databases, etc. Their API tool, Qlik Web Connectors, also allowed us to connect to a web socket extremely fast and pull the data over directly when needed. This increased the overall speed of report generation and analysis.
In addition, all the features seen in Qlik illustrated a huge growth opportunity. We are now able to continuously improve our data analytics program with no scaling limitation. This is in comparison to other software’s versatility, showing future difficulties of maxing out their potential. Not to mention, other software came at a higher premium.
While the cloud is an attractive option for storing the mounds of data generated every day, there are legitimate concerns about healthcare cloud security. Because of those concerns we needed a platform we could keep close and that would allow us proper governance and security. Qlik enables us to operate through our own network, giving our organization and its members greater peace of mind.
Coming from an organization that used another solution, I knew the capabilities of that software, and I’ve been nothing but impressed with the ease of use of Qlik. They really consider not just the developers but the end user as well, and with each release, they’re making our lives easier.
Improving Business Outcomes with Data
Our biggest BI push to date has been around productivity. Our clinicians have targets and goals, and they are incentivized to outperform them. In the past, they found out where they stood through monthly reports, which were basically pass/fail reports. The problem was that by the time they received these reports it was already too late to do anything about it.
Now, having that information right at their fingertips is enabling them to monitor their progress daily and improve their outcomes. Folks who are tracking below their goals are now able to catch the underlying issue ahead of time, increasing their chances to meet or exceed them. For example, we have our own set of regulations on how soon clinicians must enter their notes. A lot of the people who were missing their targets just didn’t understand why they were falling behind. By analyzing their data in Qlik, they could see the issues involving timeliness. Once they had access to their productivity dashboard, they saw that the solution was as easy as not waiting until Monday to enter Friday’s notes.
In just two months after implementing the productivity dashboard, we saw impressive growth in the number of individuals tracking to hit and exceed their goals. We also saw a group that struggled meeting the target for their position. They were constantly billing, but something was preventing them from getting to those targets and incentives. The new application allowed us to analyze the data to determine if those positions had unrealistic targets and incentives.
These insights brought exposure and deeper understanding of how the organization works, and the results have also had a tremendous impact on morale. Now our staff feels like their voices are heard and they have the data to get their points across.
This dramatic improvement in morale isn’t just good for the business and the work environment; it also benefits our patients. Our clinicians are more engaged, and studies show that when doctors are more engaged, it can actually produce better outcomes for patients.
Plans for the Future
These results are only the tip of the iceberg. Ultimately, the best investment we can make as an organization is to invest in our staff so they can make their own actionable, data-driven discoveries. With the ease of use and power of BI tools like Qlik, we’re starting talks of self-service data discovery, our clinicians can take data sets and build dashboards themselves to discover insights within their team or department. By empowering clinicians with their data and a way to explore it on their own we can bring a whole new level of quality to the care that we provide. I also hope it brings with it the knowledge that they can make a difference in the culture and life of our organization.