How UPMC manages 60+ petabytes of data to proactively approach patient care

Between UPMC's 40+ hospitals and more than 700 care sites, as well as its health plan that has more than 3.5 million members, the health system is responsible for a huge amount of data.

Managing and protecting that data is a big responsibility, overseen by the system's data governance office. Here, UPMC Senior Vice President and CIO Ed McCallister discusses the health system's philosophy for data management and the opportunities he sees for needle-moving partnerships in the future.

Question: What is your data management strategy for UPMC, especially as it continues to grow? How are you able to support all the data collected at your hospitals and ambulatory sites every day?

Ed McCallister: With more than 60 petabytes of data, 40+ hospitals, and 700+ outpatient sites, UPMC has access to vast amounts of data. This is why it is so important to have a strong data management strategy. UPMC has a well-established Clinical Data Warehouse that has a holistic view of clinical, financial, payer and genomic information.

UPMC's Data Governance Office ensures the management of UPMC data is properly done by documenting where data reside, how they are used, and who is the owner of the data, and by ensuring the data is authorized to be transferred.

Q: What analytics capabilities and platforms have been most useful for UPMC?

EM: Whether with payer data or clinical data, UPMC has been performing various analytics for decades to change the delivery of healthcare. We started with the Insurance Data Warehouse in the early 2000s. In mid-2000s, we launched an enterprise data warehouse initiative. The most impactful result has been our ability to proactively manage our patients' care.

With UPMC's Clinical Data Warehouse, we now have access to an extraordinary amount of patient data that has accelerated our ability to redefine the care experience – not only for clinicians but also for patients themselves. The insights that we are able to derive from the data have enabled us to 'get back to the basics' when it comes to patient care. We are able to immediately target exactly what care the patient needs and pull together the right treatment plan and care team to treat the patient and prevent readmissions. This nimbleness is made possible by pairing the data with the remarkable minds of our clinicians. Our unique and proactive ability to harness the data for use at the right time based on clinical need is what differentiates UPMC. This is something that has been in practice for years thanks to the efforts of Dr. Oscar Marroquin and his team, and it is something that we continue to improve by layering on new tools such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Q: How do you approach technology investments and vendor partnerships to ensure the data is secure and capabilities are needle-moving for the health system?

EM: We have a rigorous assessment process that ensures that data is secure. Recently, we made the decision that all vendors must be HITRUST certified or demonstrate that they are taking steps to become certified. We also have a third-party security plan submission process that all vendors are required to complete prior to becoming integrated into our network.

It is also important that we ensure that new technologies can be integrated well with our other systems, as data availability and congruence are important for point of care activities.

Q: What risks do you evaluate when considering new technology or partnerships?

EM: We evaluate the following when considering a new technology or partnership:

  • Cybersecurity posture – are they HIPAA compliant and HITRUST certified? Will they complete our third-party vendor cybersecurity assessment?
  • Compatibility – are they compatible with UPMC’s complex computing environment?
  • Standardizations and enterprise wide view – will this solution need to be customized or does it fit UPMC's needs out of the box? Can this be deployed across the enterprise?
  • Healthcare focus and experience
  • Cost

Q: How do you see data analytics and management evolving in the future? What capabilities are around the corner to benefit hospital operations and patient care?

EM: Furthering the predictive analytics usage. The data are there now, but much of the challenge is getting data used and trusted. We are finally beginning to move the needle thanks to the efforts of our Chief Clinical Analytics Officer Dr. Marroquin and his clinical analytics team. The clinical analytics team is on the frontlines with our clinicians and teaching them how to leverage the vast amounts of insight from our clinical data warehouse to change the delivery of patient care.

The use of analytical insights in the healthcare industry is very reactive. In the future, we envision that the analytic insights will evolve to be used at the bedside during the point of care. We also envision that analytics will enable us to proactively manage care and our patient population to keep them out of the hospital and healthy. We are already doing this today in some parts of UPMC and hope to expand this to all clinical departments and service lines.

UPMC Health Plan recently announced a new initiative called “UPMC Social Impact,” which aims to coordinate and expand innovation in addressing social determinants of health. This initiative is part of UPMC's Center for High-Value Health Care, which translates the work of UPMC's unique payer-provider laboratory into evidence-based practice and policy change for improving health care quality and efficiency. Data analytics and management will be critical to facilitating the important work of UPMC's Social Impact initiative.

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