Robert Conway had some idea of how Phoenix Memorial Health System fared among competitors in the Valley of the Sun, but a new database has produced a sharper picture.
Conway, a vice president at Phoenix Memorial, says he knew the 195-bed facility's average length of stay was lower than the aggregate average in the Phoenix area. But after generating reports from a free database of Medicare detail on the World Wide Web, he found the difference was more than he had thought.
"We had a much shorter length of stay than anyone in the valley-a day-plus less than everyone else," Conway says. "You don't get that (precision) in the aggregate."
Phoenix Memorial is one of more than 1,500 hospitals or healthcare systems that have registered to use CaduCIS Net, a database of clinical and administrative statistics. The healthcare industry gained access to it less than two months ago (Sept. 6, p. 34).
The company that developed the site, Philadelphia-based Care Management Science Corp., is adding about 150 new registrants per week, says Chief Executive Officer David Brailer, M.D. Those results show that healthcare organizations are willing to investigate information systems if they can determine that the products deliver specific results. That is something brochures and laptop demonstrations can't get across.
Brailer says the response has exceeded his wildest expectations, ratifying the decision to give up millions in access fees and permit free registration. CaduCIS had previously charged its 350 customers to use the service.
That sacrifice of 10% of the company's revenues was the trade-off for knifing through the industry's competitive clutter of information services companies. It attracted the attention of executives who have become skeptical of promises made by healthcare software vendors, he says.
Healthcare professionals drawn to the site for free information get a taste of how Care Management's performance-measurement model can enhance decisionmaking.
The company has commercialized an analytical framework that identifies patterns of care to reveal areas where providers can cut costs associated with caring for patients. The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business developed the framework.
Mathew Lambert, M.D., senior vice president of medical affairs at Chicago-based Catholic Health Partners, saw the free access to CaduCIS Net as "a unique marketing tool to get this out and let people see what it could do.
"I went in (on a home computer) and played around with it for several hours," Lambert says. "There was hardly a piece of information that wasn't supportive or interesting or able to start pointing us in a certain direction."
The software sifts through data on complications, mortality, morbidity, lengths of stay and hundreds of other categories to compare a facility's performance with benchmarks or with performances of other hospitals.
Administrators often have a sense of the clinical changes that should be made, but they can't overcome staff physicians' insistence on empirical support for managers' stances, Conway says. The value of access to a Medicare database is "the validity, especially from an impartial, outside third party," he says.
"Most CEOs and (chief financial officers) don't understand they can't just come in and get every physician to use antibiotic A instead of antibiotic B," Lambert says. Information sources such as CaduCIS Net "can bring to the table data that are valid and comparative and adjusted (for severity of illnesses)-which is helpful when physicians are deciding when something is real or an aberration."
Lambert says he knew the Medicare data existed but considered it out of reach. "Generally it's very, very difficult for the average hospital or medical group to access it without significant expense," he says. Access to CaduCIS Net had been priced as high as $10,000 per year, and customized reports from information services companies that use Medicare data could run as high as $100,000.
Now the only downside to using the Medicare data source is that the information is at least a year old, he says.
Care Management's main product for sale is a higher-end service, called CaduCIS Manager, which uses much the same analytical software. But instead of applying the programs to older Medicare data, the customized system captures a much broader and more current range of clinical data from a healthcare organization's information systems.
Lured to the CaduCIS Net site at carescience.com, nearly 1,000 registrants have asked about the more-sophisticated offerings.
Of the registrants, about 10% are CEOs, and 16% are chief medical officers or vice presidents of medical affairs, Brailer says. About 50% are financial or operational managers, and the rest hold other positions at hospitals or healthcare systems.