Healthcare Business News

Four health systems, IBM join Premier data analytics venture

By Joseph Conn
Posted: June 13, 2013 - 8:00 am ET

Four healthcare systems and technology giant IBM have joined the Premier healthcare alliance in a data analytics venture, making the second announcement this week of healthcare providers going in with a big-data partner.

The health system members of what is being dubbed the Data Alliance Collaborative are the Carolinas HealthCare System, Charlotte, N.C.; Catholic Health Partners, Cincinnati; Fairview Health Services, Minneapolis; and Texas Health Resources, Arlington.

Together the participants plan to develop data analytics methods to reduce healthcare costs and improve quality, initially by targeting medication noncompliance and preventable hospital readmissions.

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This latest coalition is part of wave of early adopters of data analytics. It comes as majorities of hospitals and office-based physicians now have functioning electronic health-record systems and are gathering and storing clinical information within their organizations. For now, though, only health IT leaders are combining that data with administrative and other information from internal and external sources and finding innovative ways to make use of it to control costs and improve quality of care.

Last week, Seattle Children's hospital announced it had chosen IBM as its data analytics services provider. On Tuesday, Partners HealthCare revealed it was joining the investment units of Kaiser Permanente and Indiana University health systems in taking an $8 million equity stake in Health Catalyst, a Salt Lake City-based data warehousing and analytics firm.

With the Premier collaborative, each hospital organization already has in operation its own data warehouse based on IBM's data model and technology, and each intends to work collectively with fellow alliance members. The four use inpatient EHR systems from Cerner Corp. and Epic Systems, and ambulatory EHRs from a list of vendors, including Allscripts, Athenahealth, eClinical Works and NextGen Healthcare said Sean Cassidy, general manager, enterprise provider analytics for Premier.

“We've been working on this for over a year, defining the operating model, and getting their warehouse instances up and deployed,” Cassidy said.

Initially, he said, “members are going to deploy analytics on their own data sets,” but then they will collaborate with each other and Premier experts on benchmarking using larger, shared and normalized data sets.

“We have a lot of experience and a lot of tools and people focused on semantically harmonizing data so that it can be used across many, many hospitals,” he said, likening the proposed collaboration to chefs not only sharing best recipes, but also coming into the same kitchen and creating recipes together.

Terry Carroll, Fairview Health Services' senior vice president for transformation and chairman of the Premier collaborative, said in news release that the participants are “using big data, as opposed to local or siloed data, and will get richer insights as a result.”

Dr. Paul Grundy, director of healthcare transformation for IBM, said the alliance partners are already working with data analytics as part of their patient-centered medical home programs. “I've had the privilege of visiting all of these places, and we're beginning to see a difference,” Grundy said.

He recalled an encounter with a medical assistant, part of a PCMH team at Fairview, who explained she had used their data analytics system to identify a woman who was due for a breast examination. The assistant “made sure she came in and got a breast exam,” which detected her cancer early enough for successful treatment, he said.

The medical assistant “turned around and smiled and said, 'I saved that lady's life.'” Grundy said. “That's the kind of shift that's happening and what's making that possible is, we're beginning to construct models where we're beginning to pay for better outcomes and not just episodes of care.”

Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn

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