Towards a Healthcare BI Plan

Healthcare business intelligence can potentially improve patient care and reduce costs when used effectively within a given facility. At the same time, using BI within a healthcare environment comes with a range of challenges due to the critical nature of the environment, the massive amount of complex data that needs accurate interpretation, and the caution of industry professionals to embrace BI data within the clinical situation.

In spite of these and other challenges, medical facilities are facing more pressure to collect, interpret and act on data for improving care as well as reducing costs. With the changes in national healthcare policies, hospitals and healthcare organizations are being challenged to better understand the actual cost of services performed (as opposed to the wide variance costing structures and estimates currently in place[1]), the value/effectiveness of services rendered, and the ability to act upon information in a timely manner.

An organizational BI strategy can respond to these pressures while helping facilities and personnel adapt safely to a changing healthcare environment. There are a variety examples across the country where effective use of data has improved care and reduced costs.

  • The Lahey Clinic Medical Center (in Burlington and Peabody, Massachusetts) saw significant improve in service delivery by using evidence-based data and lean process improvement to develop a multidisciplinary action plan. They improved on-time first case starts from 45-50% to 80-85%, reduced phone calls to family waiting room by 60%, reduced patient wait times, and improved staff morale.[2]
  • The BayCare Health System (in North Carolina) reduced heart attack death rates from 5.7 to 2.2 percent by using data and process management. They developed an evidence-based system that coordinates 911 call centers, emergency care personnel, and hospital providers to create a 90-minute target treatment time for heart attack patients.[3]

An effective applications of BI data within the healthcare environment should address both cost issues and care issues. Some things to keep in mind when implmenting a BI solution include:

Define goals
The HFMA recommends starting with a clear and concise set of strategic goals for the organization. These goals should be develop in tandem with overall organization goals. Internal dashboards can help members of each department form a clear vision of how department-specific goals relate to larger organization-wide goals.[4]

Real time response
Actionable goals must be responded to in a timely way. For example, if section lead identifies non-compliance, they should be able to set in motion corrective action before the patient leaves the hospital.[5] At the same time, data must reach key decision makers and support prioritized responses. At many facilities, internal dashboards utilize color-coded alerts that highlight information needing immediate attention; plus, the decision maker should be able to drill down to learn more information on problem including essential contextual data; and users should be able to customize dashboards based on their specific requirements.[6]

Improving Cost Accuracy
Healthcare facilities can expect to face more and more pressure to improve costing accuracy. “To put it bluntly,” said Harvard Business School professors Robert Kaplan and Michael Porter in a recent article, “there is an almost complete lack of understanding of how much it costs to deliver patient care, much less how those costs compare with the outcomes achieved.”[7]

BI can help facilities face the challenge of developing better costing models. As the HFMA says, “New payment models will reward providers that can accurately cost services, and penalize those that cannot.

These three aspects of an overall BI is just a start to thinking and planning a more effective, systemwide process of actionable intelligence in the healthcare industry.

[1] Building Value-Driving Capabilities: Business Intelligence, HFMA, January 2012 <>
[2] Staff writer. “Lahey Clinic Medical Center Significantly Improves On-Time Surgeries in 30 Days.” Picis Case Study
[3] “Statewide Program Improved Heart-Attack Survival: Study.” Baycare Health System, June 5, 2012
[4] Building Value-Driving Capabilities: Business Intelligence, HFMA, January 2012 <>
[5] Building Value-Driving Capabilities: Business Intelligence, HFMA, January 2012 <>
[6] Jerry Fireman. “The Vital Role of Business Intelligence in Improving Healthcare Delivery.” COL Business White Paper, July, 24, 2008.
[7] Kaplan, R.S., and Porter, M.E., “The Big Idea: How to Solve the Cost Crisis in Health Care,” Harvard Business Review, September 2011, available at