Seattle Cancer Care Alliance increases quality of care with comprehensive view of treatment plans


Increased visibility into clinical operations
Time-savings supports patient volume and treatment capacity
Enhanced collaboration between clinical and business staff

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) brings researchers and cancer specialists together from Fred Hutchinson, Seattle Children’s Hospital, and UW Medicine to treat patients diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma, breast, prostate, lung, colon, and other cancers. SCCA has care clinics and hospital affiliations to offer oncology and support services as well as survivorship programs. Their analytics team previously relied on Excel to capture and analyze clinic operations data, but this limited the insights they could share with their partners to improve patient care.

SCCA clinic staff and operations managers need to concentrate on providing quality patient care but found it difficult to track service effectiveness with so much data to consider—tracking scheduling, orders, and electronic health records to measure clinic capacity, wait-times, patient demographics, treatment space allocation, and more. And with Excel, filtering was limited, so they could only see a small slice of data instead of the full picture.

To make data more accessible for clinic and business staff, the SCCA Clinical Analytics team chose Tableau as their solution—to accommodate the needs of both dedicated analysts and consumers of the data, while maintaining the security of patient information and the quality of customer service. With 3,000 licensed Tableau users, SCCA has a secure connection to all data sources for a comprehensive view of clinic operations and patient experience.

Tableau has helped elevate the conversation around measuring the success of the organization at SCCA.

Infusion department tracks resource allocation to improve patient treatment

SCCA’s infusion bays where patients receive blood products, chemotherapy, hydration, and other services had capacity constraints due to the department’s growth and limited space. As SCCA kicked off Tableau use, they wanted to track daily and weekly infusion bay utilization and identify hotspots to try and level load the department and operate more smoothly. Galen Busch, SCCA’s Senior Tableau Developer and Tableau Administrator, says, “Tableau helped us discover areas for potential optimization and gauge the success of changes to clinical scheduling, hours of operation, and workflow.”

The Clinical Analytics Team, along with the Infusion Services Team, built dashboards in Tableau that measured bay allocation to utilization, and tracked scheduled and cancelled appointments to understand if they were effectively allocating space and resources throughout the day and week to treat patients from different disease groups.

SCCA knew when patients checked in and when they left the patient bay, but they also wanted to dig deeper to understand how long patients wait before their drug is infused or how long they wait once infusion stops and they depart the clinic. The Clinical Analytics Team, pharmacy team, and nursing staff aligned to monitor the timeframe during all of these appointment phases with other appointment data like disease category. By analyzing actual treatment time compared to expected time, SCCA was able to identify and investigate instances of longer-than-expected appointments and work to reduce patient wait times. The result is an improved patient treatment experience and smarter use of infusion resources across all disease groups.

Having a physician and clinic manager as data champions helped the Infusion Services Team gain traction with Tableau and drove interest in using data across operations. For instance, the clinic manager dove into specific visit types with Tableau to see if they ran longer or shorter than the scheduled time. Then they made adjustments to appointment length to appropriately schedule the visit, eliminate wait time, and better allocate resources and space.

With a macro-level view of the average infusion experience and the micro-view of specific patient visits analyzed in Tableau, SCCA understands the patient’s total experience and better identifies opportunities to make improvements to their infusion process and clinic operations.

SCCA analyzes data from Epic, Cerner, and Cisco with strong governance

SCCA deals with sensitive patient information so security and HIPAA compliance were critical factors when selecting Tableau. There’s scheduling information collected from Epic, orders and EHR data from Cerner, phone data captured through Cisco, patient satisfaction scores, and more.

SCCA uses single sign-on and SSL integration to maintain security for all of their users who access dashboards on Tableau Server and point Tableau to their SQL server where they stage and automate data intake before it is analyzed and shared.

Galen regularly publishes dashboards and revisits them to confirm they’re up-to-date, intuitive to users, and that the data is clean. He shares that “Tableau has changed perception of our department within the organization. When we have control over what goes into the dashboards and visualizations, it makes for a really good experience for our end users.”

The Clinical Analytics Team meets with internal stakeholders to gather requirements, understand their business case, and let the value of the project drive the development roadmap. This way they can deliver data in the best way possible for all users, from infusion nurses to Directors of Clinical Operations. Awareness of their audience before building dashboards and putting controls in place ensures a smooth and secure patient information management process.

Most of our analysis took place in Excel, which has its uses, but is not as visually appealing and pleasant to look at, or as easy to interact with as Tableau.

Developer support and collaboration strengthens Tableau adoption

Developer engagement is a focus for the SCCA Clinical Analytics Team. They regularly engage their development community to foster Tableau understanding and education so adoption scales and they maintain excellence with visualizations. “As Tableau Administrator, it’s very important to me that we produce sustainable visualizations that can support a large audience whenever possible,” explains Galen.

This means thinking about other parts of the business that can benefit from data insights so they get the most value out of analysis time. “Prior to Tableau, we didn’t get to see each other’s spreadsheets and sharing information was hard and somewhat sensitive,” notes Liz. To develop and maintain cross-team connections and understanding, SCCA gave developer licenses for Tableau to all analytics groups including financial analytics, corporate finance, and clinical analytics.

They also hold a monthly Tableau roundtable to discuss product enhancements, share work, and solicit feedback. During those sessions, they invite developers from other organizations in the alliance (Fred Hutchinson and UW Medicine) to share their best practices, experiences, successes and challenges. “I think the Tableau roundtable has really brought together our developer community and we’re able to standardize the level of work that we’re producing for our end users,” adds Galen. “Users who are new to Tableau add so much value; getting fresh perspective on different ways to solve challenges in Tableau can be so refreshing.”

As SCCA strengthens their analysis practices to become a modern data organization, having one version of the truth using Tableau across all groups and evolving data prep will remain a priority for analysts, clinic leaders, and program managers.

Instead of each developer having to learn new Tableau techniques, we can pitch new tips and tricks we’ve discovered in Tableau to other developers and bring up the knowledge in our organization as a whole.

Data analysis is critical to strategic planning for SCCA

Besides enhancing communication across all analytics teams, data analysis has informed priorities and influenced strategic planning for SCCA leadership. When executives develop and implement their business and program goals, Tableau is at the forefront of metrics conversations. They ask themselves “Is this something we can get in Tableau?” so data underscores their business performance output.

Tableau Server houses all SCCA dashboards, allowing leadership to consult visualizations at any time and be confident the data is current. Liz explains, “We can all be on vacation and I know our data systems will update so visualizations are refreshed each morning for leadership.” They don’t have to ask questions of analysts and wait for a response. It’s all right there in front of them.

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