Data analysis for the healthcare industry

The latest installment in our quest to explore the cross-industry applications of Business Intelligence (BI) leads us to examine the specific usefulness of reporting and analytics capabilities to the healthcare industry.

Interest growing

As detailed in a recent IT Business Edge article – “Health Care Providers’ Interest in Business Intelligence Growing” – many organizations and institutions in the healthcare industry, specifically in the US, are beginning to realize the benefits of BI solutions.

Many healthcare providers have began using BI tools to unlock actionable information within their data sets to achieve higher standards of care, and better medical outcomes, in the face of tighter budgeting, increasing costs and tough regulatory environments.

But, what are the key metrics or functions specific to the healthcare industry, that BI tools should analyze and report on?

Clinical applications

Patient safety and quality of care can be documented and tracked to uncover unsafe or substandard practices. This information can then be used to indentify areas where healthcare professionals may need additional training or where stricter regulations and procedures should be put in place.

For example, the number and type of medication errors can be tracked. Using BI tools, the number of medication related errors at a particular hospital could be documented. That data can be drilled down on to establish in which wards, on what day, at what times the errors occurred. From there, the nurse or doctor responsible can be identified, and that individual’s history can be profiled to discover how many medication related errors that person has made, the nature of those mistakes, and the timeframe over which they occurred.

Financial applications

Doctors’ surgeries and hospitals are beginning to use BI tools to track billing errors. There are a multitude of systems that collate patient and treatment information within hospitals to establish what services and procedures should be included in a claim. BI tools can be used to match charges with outgoing claims to reduce the number of billing errors by identifying what type of errors are occurring, and in which bills and billing systems, to decrease the number of denied claims.

Operational applications

A BI tool can integrate data from multiple operational systems to produce reports that allow hospitals to gain greater insight into their operating environment.

The aforementioned IT Business Edge article – “Health Care Providers’ Interest in Business Intelligence Growing” – stated that some hospitals are using BI tools to integrate information from a number of different systems, to achieve an up-to-the-minute picture on the number of free hospital beds, to decrease the number of ambulance diversions:

“They run it on 15-minute intervals and post it to an intranet site in a dashboard form. It goes to their ER and anyone can check to see which floor in the hospital has an open bed. Before they had this, they would divert ambulances with patients when they weren’t sure they had a bed. This increased patient risk, lost revenue for them, and it was just inefficient. Now they extract data from different systems, integrate it and create dashboards so they can drill down for each floor and see which rooms are available.”

Aberdeen research: Business Intelligence in healthcare

Back in 2008, the Aberdeen research report – “Business Intelligence in Healthcare: Have Providers Found a Cure?” – exposed the significant potential benefits of BI for the healthcare industry and healthcare professionals.

Divide and conquer

Respondents were divided into three distinct categories:

  • Best-in-Class (20%) Those who engage in “practices that are the best currently being employed and are significantly superior to the Industry Average, and result in the top industry performance.”
  • Industry Average (50%) Those who engage in “practices that represent the average or norm, and result in average industry performance.”
  • Laggards (30%) Those who engage in “practices that are significantly behind the average of the industry, and result in below average performance.”

Reporting and analytics to the rescue

The Aberdeen report clearly indicated that better performing providers utilized BI applications more readily and had a widespread commitment to reporting and analytics.

Thirty-three percent of Best-in-Class organizations are using advanced analytics applications – 2.3 times that of Laggard organizations.

Additionally, 39% of Best-in-Class organizations had deployed executive dashboard tools, compared to only 14% of Laggards.

What are the pressures driving healthcare providers to adopt BI?

The top five drivers for BI implementation were identified as:

  • The need to control increasing costs (80%)
  • The need to improve medical outcomes (46%)
  • The need to improve patient satisfaction ratings (30%)
  • The need for regulatory compliance (20%)
  • The need to identify factors that assist in maintaining and attracting new staff (10%)


Ninety-five healthcare providers participated in the survey. Results, recorded over a 12 month period, revealed that:

  • Best-in-Class achieved a 7% reduction in adverse events per patient and unplanned re-admissions, compared to 1% reduction for Industry Average institutions, and a 2% increase for Laggard organizations.
  • Best-in-Class organizations achieved a 15% increase in patient satisfaction scores, compared with 6% improvement by Industry Average and 4% improvement by Laggard organizations.
  • Best-in-Class providers decreased the amount of overtime incurred by 11%, while Industry Average organizations realized a 1% decrease and Laggards experienced a 12% increase.
  • Best-in-class organizations also reported an average 3% drop in the number of ambulance diversions compared with a 3% increase for Laggards.


BI solutions offer healthcare providers the opportunity to improve patient care by improving clinical, financial and operational procedures, and enable them to better manage and allocate limited resources.

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