by Adam Bender

BI gives Melbourne Health patient care insights

Sep 12, 20135 mins
Business IntelligenceData WarehousingHealthcare Industry

Melbourne Health has built a new data warehouse and adopted a business intelligence (BI) platform to get better insights into how well it is serving patients and managing its budget.

Melbourne Health is a large public healthcare provider in Victoria. It has 8000 staff and its flagship facility is the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

The healthcare organisation collects and analyses a great amount of data about patient activity, including how many patients are seen daily, where they stay and how long, who treats them and what treatment they receive, according to Anna McFadgen, Melbourne Health chief of staff and project director.

The organisation also analyses data related to its workforce and financials to ensure it is using its budget in the most efficient and effective way, she said.

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“We have had exponential data growth,” McFadgen said in an interview. “The data is growing because we are treating more and more people and because there is a greater and greater need for insight into the kind of performance that we have.”

“Consumers are much more information-savvy and they demand a lot more information about their own care,” she said.

The public and the government have also increased their scrutiny of healthcare providers’ performance, especially with regard to waiting times and other patient access issues, she said.

For Melbourne Health, the patient data provides better context for healthcare providers so that they can “better manage a patient’s journey through the system,” she said.

The Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) has not yet had an impact on the amount of data collected by Melbourne Health, said McFadgen, but she anticipates it will.

“Melbourne Health does not currently have an electronic medical record and it’s something which we are working very close with government with our partners to advocate for at the moment,” she said.

“But there’s absolutely a recognition that that is coming and that is going to transform both the level of information and the level of detailed information that we’re going to need to have.”

To make sense of all the data, Melbourne Health has implemented a new business intelligence system by QlikView. It previous system was not really a BI platform, McFadgen said. Built internally about 20 years by two developers who have long left the organisation, it was a static system that provided broad, month-old data, she said.

“What we were looking for was a business intelligence solution that was real-time so you basically click on it and you know the information you’re looking at is literally minutes old,” McFadgen said.

Melbourne Health also sought a platform that could link the patient, workforce and financial data so that it could draw insights on how they fit together, she said.

Melbourne Health conducted a public tender and received 12 proposals that met its criteria for the BI system, McFadgen said. In the end, the organisation chose QlikView because it seemed easiest to use, she said.

“Your average person who is not exactly a data whiz can access it and can get the insights they need from the data.”

Melbourne Health began work on a new data warehouse in November last year to replace the home-grown system and then moved on to implementing QlikView in March, McFadgen said. It took about 11 weeks to get a foundation package in place.

“We took an agile approach,” she said. “We’re developing all the time, throwing things out there for people to test and give feedback.”

“People were really excited and engaged in the process. We didn’t have to drag anyone kicking and screaming.”

The organisation is now rolling out the BI platform in a phased approach to staff, she said. The platform is about seven weeks old and currently about 80 staff are using it. A second deployment planned for later this year will put QlikView in front of 200 more people. When it is fully rolled out, more than 1,000 managers and other senior staff will have access, she said.

The system has so far met the organisation’s expectations, McFadgen said. As one example, it provides enough granularity and transparency to give an instant view of which patients are in the emergency department and how long they are waiting, she said.

An unexpected benefit was that the system identified data integrity issues that Melbourne Health didn’t know existed, she said. One thing that the organisation discovered through the BI platform was that it didn’t have any patient activity data at one of its cardiac arrest units, she said. It turned out that the data was not being entered properly at the source.

Melbourne Health is wary of patient privacy concerns, according to McFadgen. The QlikView tool is only used internally and data is not made public or otherwise accessible outside the organisation, she said. The organisation also uses security permissions to ensure staff only have access to data relevant to their work, she said.

Melbourne Health plans to regularly evaluate the platform to ensure it is getting expecting returns, and McFadgen said she expects the BI platform to evolve over time.

“The real value comes when you can do things like predictive analysis and scenario modeling, particularly in healthcare.”

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam