Swedish Medical Center (Swedish) needed to understand and communicate physician and hospital performance across a number of areas—but traditional reporting solutions were cumbersome to implement and expensive to maintain. After implementing Tableau as its primary enterprise-wide analytics platform, the healthcare provider is driving improvements in quality care, improving patient experiences, and enjoying substantial savings through process improvements and improved efficiencies.
Where Are We—and Where Do We Need to Go?
Understanding, sharing and, ultimately, improving performance measures is always the focus for Swedish.
This ongoing effort has become an even higher priority as healthcare moves away from traditional “fee-for-service” models and transitions aggressively to value-based reimbursement models. Under these new models, organizations will face reduced payments if they miss targets for factors such as readmission rates, patient satisfaction and other performance measures.
Swedish tracks and communicates an array of performance metrics , but it needed to find a way to do so more effectively and less expensively—and to tie those efforts to driving organization-wide performance improvement.
For example, historically Swedish tracked readmission rates, but the work was time consuming and resource-intensive, leading to substantial lag times between patient care and reporting.
“Different groups in the organization were using spreadsheets to gather and organize readmissions data, and it was very time consuming for analysts and managers. Collecting all the data and trying to get good reports took time away from more valuable tasks. Everyone from the CEO to the managers thought there was a better way to solve this problem,” says David Delafield, CFO of Swedish Medical Group, a division of the Swedish organization.
While Swedish sends patient experience surveys to more than 15 percent of its patients each year, the organization lacked a simple, centralized way to share the results with internal staff and physicians.
“We would get tens of thousands of survey responses,” Delafield says. “We shared the results, but it was very inconsistent. Everyone was looking at different things, and some didn’t look at the results at all.” As a result, it was difficult for Swedish providers and administrators to consistently move in the same direction on patient experience metrics.
In addition to preparing for value-based reimbursement, Swedish wanted to improve other areas like operating room efficiency, physician engagement and financial performance.
“The Cost Would Expand Indefinitely”
Delafield, who has a finance and technology background, led a team tasked with selecting and implementing a platform to help Swedish understand and share performance metrics in order to drive improvements.
“The lack of actionable data was a big issue,” says Delafield. “We had no line-of-sight, visual way to look at things that were very important to the organization.”
“It’s hard if you have one technology platform for revenue data, another for quality, another for patient experience—and people can’t go to one spot for everything they need,” Delafield says. “It makes it really difficult to align.”
This fractured approach created a growing need for expensive analyst support.
“There were just too many random, custom reports which made it really difficult to coordinate efforts on key levers. Keeping overhead costs down is important so we wanted to find a relatively inexpensive but effective way to made data actionable for operators and physicians,” says Delafield. “With so much custom reporting—the overhead cost would expand indefinitely if we didn't get control of it.”
“Our analysts would fulfill a lot of ad hoc requests, which are all pretty similar but for different audiences,” Delafield says. “And they were doing it over and over again, which became very expensive and made it very difficult to get a line of sight to what was happening across the company.”
“We Wanted Tableau to Be the Solution for the Company”
By late 2012, Swedish was looking at a few potential options to meet its short- and medium-term requirements: IBM, SAP and Tableau.
“We were very familiar with IBM and SAP; we knew what they could do,” he says. “But we also knew some of the issues that they couldn’t address. And we wanted our solution to be accessible and effective for everyone in the organization, not just analysts.”
The Swedish analytics team experimented with building smaller views in Tableau 7, the most current version available at the time.
“We had done enough to know that we could build this integrated platform using Tableau,” he says. “We didn’t want this solution to be a niche visual tool for analysts; we wanted Tableau to be the solution for the company.”
They initially had some concerns. “We weren’t sure about using Tableau Server with massive amounts of users and lots of data,” he admits. “But we’ve been able to expand to more and more people with only a few issues—and Tableau 8 solves a lot of those. We’re in the process of upgrading now.”
Swedish began with a limited number of visualizations supported by a small team of analysts. “It took them very little time to get up to speed on Tableau,” says Delafield.
The initial dashboards debuted to a small audience—but demand quickly outpaced expansion plans.
“It was very organic and viral. We had a lot of emails each week from people wanting to get access,” says Delafield. “Now we’re to the point where we’re bringing a lot of new users onto the platform each week and we know it’s having a big impact around alignment and simplification. Our focus now will be on expanding views and answering new business questions. Physicians will drive a lot of the movement towards value based healthcare so the Swedish team is working really hard to engage physicians wherever possible”
The current team comprises three technical resources and three fulltime report developers. “It's not a very large team to build what Swedish has created. It's been a significant value—a great ROI and will allow us to retire most of the other reporting solutions across Swedish,” Delafield says.