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How Atrium Health is Applying Data to Drive Performance in Five Key Areas


Key takeaways:

  • Healthcare organizations have no lack of data, but it can be challenging for decision makers to extract valuable information and avoid overload.
  • Atrium Health developed a comprehensive strategy for unlocking data to reveal valuable patient insights for their health system.
  • PINC AI™ Clinical Intelligence was a crucial part of the solution the Atrium Health team used to develop resources that positioned them to achieve high engagement among their service line divisions and improve efficiency managing outcomes.

Obtaining valuable information from the vast amounts of healthcare data available stands out as one of the most challenging tasks healthcare organizations face. Atrium Health, an integrated, nonprofit health system serving the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama, is no stranger to this challenge. The health provider, which consists of 40 hospitals and more than 1,400 care locations, consistently leverages its data to improve productivity and patient care, fulfilling its mission to improve health, elevate hope and advance healing – for all.

“Part of our challenge is to quickly get a large group on the same page to understand our complex data from many different perspectives and sources,” said Ben Masten, outcomes specialist at Atrium Health.

Together, Masten and Kay Starnes, Lead Clinical Analyst at Atrium Health, and other administrative leaders leveraged their partnership with the PINC AI™ Clinical Intelligence team to provide risk-adjusted outcomes in a more meaningful way for their teams.

“The dashboards we developed are like viewing our information through a kaleidoscope, enabling us to break down information through diverse lenses and identify actionable components,” said Masten.

Stop the Wheel of Data Churning

Healthcare leaders are both data dependent and data overwhelmed. Medical professionals require more than just a “data dump.”

“It’s important for healthcare organizations to stop the wheel of data churning to drive the changes they need,” said Kay Starnes. “To do this, healthcare organizations need a comprehensive strategy that can get decision makers the right data with the right analyses at the right time, allowing them to put the knowledge obtained into practice.”

Atrium Health and the PINC AI™ Clinical Intelligence team have identified five key areas of focus to best position health systems to achieve their best outcomes.

1. Accessing Timely Data

Atrium Health, like many health systems today, has a wealth of valuable data within its information systems. However, it is common for health systems to spend countless hours extracting and transforming the data into useful reports, which is a time-consuming and inefficient process.

“One of our biggest barriers is timely access to data. We aim to spend more time thinking of ways to use the information, rather than just digging through it,” said Masten. “Our custom dashboards give us what we need on a daily basis. The visualizations really help us make our data digestible. We spend less time compiling numbers and more time driving improvements. Having access to timely, comprehensive data allows us to make strategic decisions to impact readmissions and length of stay as part of a strong culture of continuous quality improvement.”

The efficiencies of timely, comprehensive data gained with the PINC AI™ platform enable providers to make precise treatment decisions that affect the length of stay and properly plan for a patient's care. “Our new tool standardized reporting to stop the constant churn of data and gave us better understanding of our information,” said Starnes.

2. Achieving Alignment Among Teams

An aligned healthcare organization is essential to making sure every member of the healthcare team contributes toward a common goal.

“A key priority for us was aligning with our enterprise goals. Everybody on our team has different expertise and perspectives, so we needed to align at the start to speak the same language when looking through data,” said Masten. “Kay was careful to ensure the source of the data was derived from the same one as the system’s goals.”

Effective alignment requires having quick access to simple intelligence and visualizations at all levels of the healthcare organization. This helps ensure that all departments are functioning under the same presumptions of how teams are performing in relation to their goals. When a health system has the right tools, everyone on the team can access the same data and the efficiencies that come with consistent reporting are beneficial to the whole organization.

“We spent significant time engaging with our teammates to customize our data selections for our dashboards and build a foundational understanding among our colleagues, which made us more efficient when it comes to making decisions,” said Starnes. “Our health system leaders now have more time to devote to higher, more strategic levels of thinking.”

3. Driving Performance Improvements with Benchmarking Analytics

Benchmarking establishes a performance standard for healthcare organizations. It informs decision makers which processes are effective and which ones require improvement. A healthcare organization can learn more about its strengths and weaknesses by benchmarking across numerous locations, clinicians, services and timeframes.

Actionable, risk-adjusted quality analytics are imperative to benchmark hospital performance against top-performing peers. Successful organizations, like Atrium Health, refresh their comparative data analyses as often as possible to stay informed about how they are performing. This helps healthcare leaders pinpoint and prioritize opportunities and conduct data-driven discussions to monitor initiatives with strategic patient-centric metrics.

4. Flexible Dashboards: Using Visual Analytics for Knowledge

One of the best ways health systems can harness the power of their analyzed data is through visualizations. Atrium Health utilized the information surfaced in its work to create dashboards for stronger decision making based on relative, key quality measures for their teams. They also used historical performance and national benchmarks to set their targets. For instance, Starnes consistently evaluates the data for relevance, adjusts as priorities change and updates the dashboards regularly. This is vital to ensure the various teams at Atrium Health have the data they need at their fingertips to drive value for their patients.

“The dashboards provide quick insights to accelerate the learning process. Each page tells a complete story from multiple levels,” said Starnes. “The overview pages tell us about several metrics at a glance. The focus pages enable users to dive deeper into one metric to find opportunities. Lastly, case percentages bring relevance to the selections and partner well with trends for directional information.”

Comprehensive data is the power that drives actionable results to meet the goals important to the team’s mission and Atrium Health’s vision to be a national leader for health, learning and community.

5. Embracing a Culture of Continuous Improvement

Improvement is only meaningful if it is sustained. Atrium Health fosters a culture of ongoing, data-driven improvement that empowers frontline staff, leaders and executives to identify new strategies and ensure they continue to have the desired impact after initial implementation.

“A robust learning environment is what we strive for at Atrium Health,” said Dr. Joseph Hsu, Vice Chair of Quality for Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute. “This is just one of the tools we use to make our improvement work easier, faster and more efficient. This is done by allowing teams to engage regularly to review, plan and achieve target outcomes.”

Health systems that have a culture of continuous performance improvement advance organizational awareness, hasten change and pursue ongoing excellence.

Final Thoughts: Data that Inspires Action

Once established, these five pillars of focus result in teams experiencing a shorter timeframe to pinpoint actionable opportunities for strategic improvements with more informed workgroup members. Access to your data is important, but healthcare organizations must harness the ability to utilize it efficiently.

By making data easier to understand and use, healthcare organizations can improve care and optimize patient outcomes with similar solutions for their own quality improvement needs.

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