Fixing health care: Five solutions that work today

from the SAS Institute

Real-world applications that are making a difference

Analytics hold the key to predicting what a person’s  health experience will be: what risks are present, what treatments will be most effective, and what steps can be taken to avoid costly and potentially chronic or fatal illness and disease. Read on to see how SAS customers are using analytics to solve problems that face the health care industry worldwide. 

1) Involving patients more actively in care
With help from SAS®, the Karolinska Institute in Sweden has produced two applications: One enables patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) to examine the factors that affect their health, and the other helps rheumatologists predict outcomes and select the best treatment for each patient.

Patients are able to choose what they would like to improve (such as pain) and up to four independent lifestyle factors, such as exercise, diet and sleeping habits, which might conceivably reduce pain. The Web-based program generates a test plan that the patient prints out as a diary of what should be tested each day. At the end of the period, the program calculates which combination of factors provided the best lifestyle impact.

Karolinska also has a national “RA register” that is used for recording and following up on medical consultations and the effects of various treatments on RA patients. A SAS database is used to analyze the information and create models predicting the results of administering various drugs and combinations of drugs, thus assisting doctors in choosing the best treatment for each patient in real time during the clinical visit.

2) Monitoring  and improving performance levels
With critically ill patients in every bed, peak performance is required in the intensive care unit (ICU). The Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society (ANZICS) helps hospitals achieve that peak using SAS to provide accurate and up-to-date performance reporting. The result is an ongoing improvement in the overall level of care afforded to ICU patients.

“By using the SAS solution, we are able to see immediately if a certain unit’s performance appears to be less than expected,” says Graeme Hart, Chair of the ANZICS Database Management Committee. “With that information, we can then help the ICU determine precisely what it is that is causing the change in performance – such things as checking data quality, reviewing bed and staffing numbers or other resources – then address those issues before they have potentially disastrous results in patient care,” says Hart.

3) Managing data to coordinate  and improve patient care
Pittsburgh-based Community Care manages behavioral health coverage for 1 million Pennsylvania Medicaid, Medicare and commercial members. Using SAS, Community Care has reduced the time it takes to process data by two-thirds, making them better able to coordinate care and follow up on patients.

Since they’re able to run reports more frequently, the company can now measure clinical interventions. Does a patient released from the hospital need six follow-up services to maintain the discharge plan, or is eight the preferred number? More importantly, the staff can quickly see which members aren’t following post-hospitalization protocols.

The organization has also engaged in joint projects with an affiliated health insurance plan responsible for serving the physical needs of Medicare and Medicaid for Pennsylvania residents. The goal is to understand how physical diseases affect behavioral health and vice versa so that they can use data to help the consumer with all aspects of their health care.

4) Reducing costswith automated reporting 
When Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey’s 3.6 million members began demanding more sophisticated information in order to manage expenses, the company turned to SAS and saved more than $500,000 in the first year of use.

Mike Occhipinti has been with Horizon BCBSNJ for nearly two decades, and the Manager of Informatics can recall when most customers needed little more than data on how much hospitals and providers were paid.

Just three months after installing SAS, Occhipinti’s group was delivering automated, 14-page disease management and health reports for major customers that pull data from multiple sources. These were the same reports that took one person two weeks to create prior to using SAS. “Our executive leadership sees this one version of the data as a huge benefit. They are receiving customizable, executive-level reports with summary-data detail backup readily available,” says Occhipinti. Internal customers can log on and have a customized, up-to-date dashboard available in 30 seconds or less.

5) Predicting accurate nursing staff levels for each shift
Nurses want to focus on patient care, not scheduling, but overworked nurse managers often deal with last-minute staffing chaos, causing stress for medical staff and potentially endangering patients.

To solve this problem, Avantas  uses predictive analytics from SAS to help hospitals accurately forecast staffing needs so they can spend more time on patient care and less time on staffing.  Nurse managers who spent 60 percent of their time on staffing now spend less than half that amount and can decrease expenses by staffing more efficiently, saving on overtime, contract nursing costs and turnover.

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About Andy Painter

A passionate Information and Data Architect with experience of the financial services industry, Andy’s background spans pharmaceuticals, publishing, e-commerce, retail banking and insurance, but always with a focus on data. One of Andy’s principle philosophies is that data is a key business asset.
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