Advocate Health Care VP Dr. Rishi Sikka: Leveraging Data Analytics Background to Improve Care

Rishi Sikka, MD, vice president of clinical transformation at Oak Brook, Ill.-based Advocate Health Care, received the 2013 Community Health Leadership Award from the Chicago Health Executives Forum in February. The award was given in recognition of Dr. Sikka's innovative improvement strategies and his efforts in coordinating care.

Dr. Rishi Sikka is vice president of clinical transformation at Advocate Health Care.Dr. Sikka hasn't always been in healthcare, however. He points to his background in data analytics and communication as important factors in his ability to drive performance improvement across Advocate's 250-plus sites of care, including 10 hospitals. Here, he describes how he transitioned from a business student at a prestigious university to a leader at the largest integrated healthcare system in Illinois.

A change of heart: Moving from business to healthcare
Dr. Sikka began his career at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Half-way through his studies he had "a change of heart" and decided to go into medicine, in which many of his family members worked, he says. He was then accepted into Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minn., on scholarship. At Mayo Clinic, Dr. Sikka says he gained "an understanding of a culture of excellence and patient-centeredness." During this time, Dr. Sikka also became a medical correspondent for an NBC affiliate in Rochester, which taught him presentation skills that have benefited him throughout his career.

Learning the power of data analytics
Another skill he learned early in his career that he continues to use is data analysis, which he performed in an independent study at Prudential Healthcare in Atlanta. "In that experience, I learned a lot about managed care, disease management and most importantly, how to use data — how to analyze data, how to do statistical work with data [and] how to look at claims data. That was an additional bedrock foundation for the work I ended up doing down the road," Dr. Sikka says.

Dr. Sikka continued to focus on data analytics as a faculty member at Boston University Medical Center, a research associate at Medco Health Solution, a consultant at Health Benchmarks and cofounder of healthcare software company Praxeon. Dr. Sikka says this experience with presentation and applying data analytics to strategy, operations, quality and safety have been crucial in shaping his work today.

Becoming a leader at Advocate
In 2007, Dr. Sikka joined Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn as an emergency physician and later held a quality and safety role in the emergency department. "I took that background with operations and being able to analyze data and was able to successfully lead a turnaround of processes around heart attacks and pneumonia, in particular, [in the ED]," Dr. Sikka says.

Later, as medical director of clinical transformation for Christ Medical Center, Dr. Sikka continued to leverage skills he developed from experience with news media, payors and health systems to drive improvement. "I took my background in data, communication, relationships and operations and translated that into improving some of our processes [at Advocate]," he says. His leadership in using data to improve mortality, length of stay and other metrics resulted in Christ Medical Center being named among the top 100 major teaching hospitals in the country by Truven Health Analytics for the first time in 2012.

Now, as vice president of clinical transformation, one of Dr. Sikka's responsibilities is working on projects related to big data at Advocate. For example, Advocate is partnering with Cerner to store patients' EMR data in a data warehouse in the cloud. Instead of organizing patient data according to episodes of care, as is typical, Advocate and Cerner will arrange data by patient, creating a longitudinal record of patients' health across the continuum of care, according to Dr. Sikka.

From analyzing claims data to developing a data warehouse, Dr. Sikka's varied experiences play a large role in his success in improving healthcare processes.  

More Articles on Advocate Health Care:

Advocate Health Care Joins American Cancer Society's Colorectal Screening Initiative
10 Things to Know About Advocate Christ Medical Center

Advocate Health Care Receives Sustainability Award

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