Listening to Your Data: Making Analytics Work for You

HealthLeaders magazine , January 13, 2011

Panelist Profiles

Paul G. Matsen,
Chief Marketing and Communications Officer
Cleveland Clinic
Cleveland, OH

John Hallick,
President and CEO
CPM Marketing Group Inc.
Madison, WI

Elizabeth Pellegrin,
Chief Marketing Officer
Charleston Area Medical Center
Charleston, WV

Philip Betbeze,
Senior Leadership Editor
HealthLeaders Media

Malcolm Isley,
Vice President Strategic Services
Greenville Hospital System
Greenville, SC

CPM Marketing

Roundtable Highlights

HEALTHLEADERS: Let's talk about leveraging data that you have in pieces and in silos at your hospitals and health systems. How do you effectively merge that data for strategic planning?

MALCOLM ISLEY: South Carolina has a registry where hospitals submit all of their information, which they combine to develop market-share reports. But it's not real transparent. Until about six months ago, we're only allowed to see our performance. We couldn't look at competitors and see how they perform, what markets they pulled from. South Carolina's just changed that, so now we have better competitor information in terms of market share and service lines. That raw data is at the DRG level, so we developed an internal group that's measuring and monitoring our outside business and our inside business. We marry it up with our internal performance measurements, whether it's from our cost accounting system or our clinical information, so we have a feel for how we perform in the market and what that means to us in terms of our market share, our profitability per case, our source of business. It will be essential for us to bring that information together and use it in a meaningful way.

JOHN HALLICK: Anybody who is running a business needs metrics to make decisions. The problem is that information systems are always dynamically changing within organizations. The data flow in the system, and they're being tampered with along the way—these systems were never designed to be connected or fit together. At CPM, we design heuristics that allow us to rapidly pull disparate data sources together. The result is a clean, singular, strategic marketing and planning database that consolidates all of these into a common format, so that multiple businesspeople can access the same data for their business problems and they can come out with answers based on the same information.

PAUL G. MATSEN: We've built a customer relationship management database that we use for marketing. But we also have the Ohio Hospital Association and the Cleveland Hospital Association data, which allows us to get all the hospitals' reports. So we get a good look at competitive market-share position. In marketing, we partnered closely with finance and we're able to look at growth by service line at the ZIP code level for each one of our hospitals. We use that to build a market plan for every hospital in our system. We're building two new outpatient centers in northeast Ohio. That was based on a growth-planning matrix that we built that looked at population growth, population density, income, and payer mix.

ELIZABETH PELLEGRIN: We also have to pull our data from multiple points. We have a somewhat siloed process as far as collecting all that data because finance is involved, planning is involved. We have a health education research institute that manages the research portion. And then, of course, marketing has the responsibility, as well. I think we do a very consistent job in our strategic planning process. We start early; we share a lot of data. We are purchasing from outside organizations pulling that together, but as far as actually having set reports at the push of a button, we have a ways to go on that. It is pretty manual right now.

HEALTHLEADERS: How do you marry all these disparate sources of data, and how quickly can you do it?

ISLEY: We're project-specific. One of the departments I developed when I came to Greenville was the business intelligence unit. That group is responsible for bringing those systems together, and we oversee the data warehouse, as well.

MATSEN: Ultimately, it's tied to your ability to drive revenue in the future. For instance, capturing referring physician data for patient admissions is not as good as we would like it to be. And it requires training and education of the staff to make sure it's done well, and that the right tools are in place, so it's easy for the frontline staff to execute. That's a critical piece of information on which the leadership team needs to align.

HALLICK: Healthcare is very well suited for some of the more advanced data-mining techniques because of the quality and robustness of the data. But you have to have good data—you can't extract patterns from bad data. We pull together data from disparate sources into one common platform—we call it a convergence growth engine. It gives you a total view of your market from physicians to patients to market analytics and future forecasts.

MATSEN: At the most basic level, you have to use data to get a thorough understanding of your market, your consumer, and your physician in the marketplace. Especially if you're operating a system, you need to understand where your patients are coming from at the ZIP code level. What markets are their primary markets, what service lines are their strongest service lines, what's the payer mix in those service lines, and then if you have private practice physicians involved, who are the private practice physicians who are referring the patients? We take that data for each of our community hospitals, and we put that into a published report that all the hospital executives can use for a foundation for a strategic dialogue about growth, about where you want to target your marketing efforts, about where you want to target your managed care efforts, where you want to target physician recruitment.

PELLEGRIN: It has to be a collaborative effort whereby administrators are aware of opportunities by service line. I find that helpful also when working with the medical staff, because with physicians, there's a certain sense that if they have a slow week, we're having a downturn. The challenge is having real-time data, and not looking at something a year or two old, which is what we see from the many databases.

MATSEN: We found four clear opportunities for growth. Granted, any one of our competitors doing the same data analysis could have come up with the same opportunities. But we seized those opportunities, and we're building two new facilities. We entered into an agreement to merge with another hospital that was in one of those high-growth markets. Everybody on the leadership team understands where those four growth opportunities are. They also understand where the market declines are, and that those hospitals need to be focusing on maximizing their current revenue opportunities, reducing costs, and seeking partnership opportunities if necessary. You need data to do that.

HEALTHLEADERS: Is there better, cleaner data out there? How can we get to it quicker?

HALLICK: A broader understanding at the collection points is really important. The second thing is knowing what data you need to solve your business problems and how you might want to categorize data into usable formats. CPM builds databases from raw data, so I'm sensitive to data quality and making sure we understand the business problem so we can build the right solution. The data sets tend to be vast, so we have to have a fast engine to serve up real-time data analysis. Every question answered seems to generate two more questions—real-time analytics are the only solution.

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