Enabling healthcare analytics for better patient outcomes

Hospitals and clinics have long been mired in the same data problems as other business: stuck waiting weeks or months for the answers to data questions. IT was perpetually overwhelmed with requests, and by the time the results came in, circumstances had changed. There was no way to keep up with the ever-increasing flood of data.

This has been a problem for all companies, but it’s literally life and death for medical institutions. When dealing with healthcare, getting your hands on the most up-to-date data is beyond essential.

Other factors have added to the data challenges for healthcare. The Affordable Care Act led to millions of Americans getting health insurance. New standards for global health initiatives are transforming how the rest of the world treats its sick and maintains wellness. These changes have made it more pressing for healthcare workers to leave behind the old, slow ways and find new ways of accessing data that are quicker, more effective, and easier to use

Given these challenges, the innovations of self-service data analytics are a particular godsend for the healthcare industry. Now, healthcare workers are able to look at the data they need immediately, without waiting for a slow-coming report. The people who need to see and understand the data can do so themselves—which means better healthcare for us all.

As adoption of self-service data programs increases, there are three main attributes of the change in healthcare analytics. Together, they are making a dramatic—and healthy—difference.


Increasingly, the person directly providing your healthcare—in other words, the one who really needs access to data—is also the one analyzing that data. That’s the magic of self-service data analytics.

For example, at St. George’s Healthcare NHS Trust in London, the 6000-member staff used to rely on spreadsheets, which are always cumbersome. Their manual reporting system was as slow as molasses: often it took three months for crucial data to reach clinical directors and decision makers. Think how many medical decision are made in three months. St. George’s was desperately in need of a better, faster, more proactive way.

Thanks to their adoption of self-service analytics, St. George’s has seen a sea change in their approach to data that is yielding dividends in cost reduction, resource allocation, regulation compliance—and, most importantly—patient care.

One innovation was an “Arrivals” dashboard—this made a huge difference in the emergency room, which suffered from overcrowding during the winter. With this dashboard, workers were able to look at the numbers on patient arrivals according to date, specialty, cause, and other factors. Once the data was visualized, it was easy to see that strokes were a major cause of overcrowding. This is the kind of insight no one—even the most diligent or insightful person—could come up with on their own. Self-service analytics leave the world of late reports and dubious intuitions behind, giving healthcare workers facts they can see for themselves.

Visual discovery

Doctors, nurses, clinicians, and administrators know medicine—not data science. Visualization is the magic that allows them to become data analysts too. Self-service visualization programs are designed with the human visual processing system in mind, taking advantage of our natural strengths and weaknesses. Thanks to the technology, the programs have already been adjusted to us: we don’t have to bend over backwards adjusting to them.

For example, self-service analytics have been transformative at Piedmont Healthcare, which encompasses five hospitals and 400 medical staff members, plus about 1200 affiliate physicians in the greater Atlanta area. The range of healthcare services, practices, patients, and problems Piedmont sees every week is dizzying. Thanks to a constant supply of patients—and the new challenges of the Affordable Care Act—Piedmont needed to up its data game. They would never have been able to keep up with new patients and their needs with the old, stuck-in-the-mud ways of reporting. Business Intelligence Manager Mark Jackson said that self-service analytics have made remarkable improvements: including replacing 2,400 pages of reports with a single dashboard.

Dashboards have also helped with the critical issue of heart care. An initiative called Patient First brought data from diverse sources together, allowing doctors to see pertinent data in one view in a timely fashion. This led to significant reductions in readmissions for heart failure and heart attacks. This led to $2 million in savings: all thanks to the power of visualization.

When you can see your healthcare data, pretty soon you’ll be seeing healthier patients too.

Speed at every stage

It’s a cliché that time is money, but in health care time is more than that: it’s life itself. Self-service data analytics are doing great work when it comes to letting people analyze data themselves through powerful visualizations. But their greatest asset might be the powerful computing power that allows Big Data to be gathered, aggregated, and analyzed at remarkable speed—often, with data that is literally up to the second.

Doctors at the Texas Institute for Robotic Surgery are obviously welcoming of new technology, and they’ve embraced self-service data analytics too. This has allowed doctors to access real-time data from 30,000 procedures a year. The data can be sliced and diced at any time according to procedure, doctor, attending nurses, geography, etc. Any factor can quickly be isolated and then analyzed to see if it had a negative or positive correlation with patient health. For this high-tech medical organization, their data analysis is now almost as impressive as their surgery.

No going back

It’s abundantly clear that the old ways of dealing with data are over—particularly in the world of medicine. There isn’t any alternative to embracing fast, smart tools that can put data in the hands of the healthcare professionals who need it—with compelling, sharp visualizations that bring the facts to life.

These changes are going to mean extended and better life for patients everywhere. When you have a medical emergency, medical professionals are generally quick, and now they can have data that’s even quicker. It’s going to lead to better decision-making and better health for us all.

Andy Dé is the industry strategy and marketing leader for Healthcare and Life Sciences at Tableau. In this role, he leads the innovation, go-to-market and commercialization strategy, planning and execution for Tableau’s solutions targeted at healthcare providers, payers, pharma and medical devices. He has over 20 years of prior enterprise software innovation strategy, portfolio management and go-to-market strategy, planning and execution experience at GE Healthcare, SAP Health-Sciences and i2.

Tableau Software (NYSE: DATA) helps people see and understand data. Tableau helps anyone quickly analyze, visualize and share information. More than 26,000 customer accounts get rapid results with Tableau in the office and on-the-go. And tens of thousands of people use Tableau Public to share data in their blogs and websites. See how Tableau can help you by downloading the free trial at www.tableau.com/trial.

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