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Premier’s PINC AI™ Clinical Intelligence: A Key to Reducing Clinical Variation and Improving Quality at St. Luke’s University Health Network


Key takeaways:

  • Rooting out clinical variation is one of the biggest challenges healthcare organizations must overcome to deliver the highest quality care at the lowest possible cost.
  • Harnessing data analytics can provide a great deal of value to healthcare organizations, enabling them to generate insights on their evidence-based care programs and identify improvement opportunities for implementation across the organization.
  • St. Luke’s University Health Network is utilizing Premier’s PINC AI™ technology platform to put data in the hands of providers to help reduce clinical variation, improve care and achieve strong performance in value-based payment programs.

Healthcare organizations must actively work to develop advanced data analytics capabilities if they are to flourish in the everchanging world of value-based care (VBC). Reducing clinical variation, in particular, has become a top priority for value-focused initiatives.

Variation in healthcare delivery is somewhat necessary given the need to customize treatment to each patient's specific needs. However, unwarranted clinical variation can reveal inefficiencies in care delivery, which can drive up healthcare costs. In today’s challenging economic environment, it is increasingly important for healthcare organizations to reduce costs to offset growing financial pressures.

St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN), a non-profit health system serving Pennsylvania and New Jersey, launched an initiative to eliminate unnecessary variation in care with the objective to improve quality and outcomes. “Our vision is simply to be the best, to provide the best care to our patients and to provide the best culture for our providers and our staff to work in,” said Donna Sabol, Senior Vice President and Chief Quality Officer for SLUHN.

SLUHN, like many healthcare organizations across the country, had plenty of data to assess its various evidence-based care programs. However, they needed an efficient way to access the data and transform it into valuable insights. To accomplish this, SLUHN implemented an analytics solution from PINC AI™ Clinical Intelligence, INsights.

Using PINC AI™ Solutions to Improve Performance

SLUHN tapped into the PINC AI™ technologies to gain visibility into data and access capabilities such as benchmarking. INsights takes in siloed data from the organization as well as PINC AI™ application data (e.g., electronic health record (EHR) data, resource utilization, quality outcomes and more) to identify improvement opportunities.

INsights then cleanses, simplifies, standardizes, maps and analyzes the data delivering it into visualization and analytics tools that providers can use. “One of the great things about the data we get from Premier’s PINC AI™ technology is the benchmarks to compare ourselves to major teaching hospitals as well as large-, medium- and small-sized hospitals,” said Sabol.

These analytics help healthcare leaders make informed decisions in their supply chain, workforce, service lines or other business functions.

“The idea is taking multiple siloed components of data and cleaning, validating, risk-adjusting them, and then putting them in a meaningful format that can be put in the hands of providers, administrators and operators, to drive sustainable change,” said Dr. Daniel Debehnke, Vice President and Chief Physician Executive of Market Solutions at Premier.

Create a Multidisciplinary Team

Having the right technology is important, but as SLUHN found, it is also critical to align your team. Collaboration across teams from different departments generally yields more successful outcomes. Instead of having one overarching analytics department, SLUHN has three distinct data analytics teams: the clinical quality analytics team housed within the quality department, the business analytics team in the finance department and the EHR analytics team in the IT department. The three teams work closely together behind the scenes to pull data analysis for all providers, staff and managers seeking insights.

Cohesiveness is fostered when departments communicate information around shared improvement goals. For example, an essential component of success is having physician leaders at the table to champion data-driven initiatives. “It is absolutely impossible to drive meaningful change without truly engaging the providers and allowing them to be activated and to do the work,” said Debehnke.

Healthcare leaders can determine whether improvement efforts have been successful by regularly monitoring operations. Organizations can track the results of their efforts by learning more about how clinicians are applying evidence-based care guidelines. When data is placed into clinicians’ hands, they are better able to improve their routine procedures. “The data drives us to identify our priorities and to identify when we're improving or not improving directionally,” said Sabol.

Data Transparency is Key

Data-driven healthcare improvement is achieved at every level of the system when everyone has access to the data and is confident using it.

SLUHN has adopted a transparent approach to data throughout the organization, in part by creating the psychological safety to take risks. The first metric that was unblinded and shared with providers was antibiotic use within an hour of surgical cut time. Providers who were outside the optimal usage were informed, helping to reduce this inefficiency.

SLUHN has progressed to unblinding all data, and now any report pulled is timely, accessible and easy-to-use. In one instance, a quality coordinator using the PINC AI™ dataset identified a high volume of hypotension in the orthopedic patient population, leading to the development of a new protocol for providing fluid more appropriately to those patients.

By making accurate, actionable data available across the organization, SLUHN has effectively decreased variation in clinical care and recorded strong performance in value-based payment programs. The health system recently received A ratings from the Leapfrog Group across all hospitals, as well as recognition as a 15 top healthcare system from Merative(formerly known as IBM Watson Health). Premier has since acquired the 100 Top Hospitals® program from Merative to help health systems to identify opportunities for performance improvement. “We've been a partner with Premier for many years, and one of the reasons why we can achieve this level of recognition and excellence is because of the data that's been available to us,” said Sabol.

Final Thoughts

It's not simple to collect high-quality data and put it to good use. However, with the right strategy, tools and leadership, analytics can help healthcare organizations significantly improve the standard of patient care. “It's a marathon not a sprint to get to a point where you can have very high-level expertise and data available to you and to get to data acceptance,” said Sabol.

Analytics tools like PINC AI™ INsights help to transform data into clear, actionable insights, assisting clinicians in enhancing patient experience while lowering costs and providing high-quality care.

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