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The Importance of Clinical Analytics in Driving Patient Outcomes

By Dr. Bradley Lembcke, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, CHI Texas Division

August 16, 2023
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Hospitals face the immense challenge of providing high-quality care while simultaneously controlling costs and improving patient outcomes. The rise of smart devices and the app economy has elevated patient expectations regarding the health care experience. This increase in patient expectations has an upside: it spurs health care leaders to transform care delivery and offer significant advantages to patients, including more personalized care. 

In meeting these modern expectations, the use of clinical analytics revolutionized the way hospitals operate, empowering health care leaders to harness the potential of vast amounts of data to provide more informed decision-making and ultimately drive the best possible outcomes for their patients.

From Data to Decisions

Clinical analytics has emerged as a pivotal area of focus within the health care landscape, particularly as the industry transitions toward accountable care. This dynamic field harnesses real-time data about everything from wait times to treatment outcomes to generate valuable insights, inform decision-making, boost revenues and drive cost savings. The rapid advances in key technologies, coupled with the widespread adoption of electronic health records, propelled the growth of clinical analytics.

The advantages of implementing clinical analytics practices are numerous. Judicious use of data analytics can lower administrative costs, enhance care coordination, improve patient well-being, provide clinical decision support and mitigate instances of abuse and fraud. Additionally, analytics can contribute to cost reduction by streamlining supplies purchasing, lowering overhead expenses, and predicting and accounting for labor market variations.

Outcomes and Processes

Using clinical analytics, St. Luke’s Health tracks two distinct types of measures: outcome measures and process measures. Outcome measures encompass critical indicators such as mortality rates, hospital-acquired infections and readmissions—essentially, they reflect the ultimate results of patient care. Conversely, process measures encompass the various actions and procedures health care leaders undertake to drive improved outcomes. By focusing on these process measures, health care professionals at St. Luke’s Health strive to optimize patient care and enhance overall outcomes.

Tracking outcome and process measures allows us to implement valuable changes exactly where they’re needed. For example, one of the key areas where clinical analytics has proven invaluable is in managing hospital-acquired infections. By implementing standardized protocols for the insertion and maintenance of central intravenous lines and conducting regular audits, St. Luke’s Health has significantly reduced the incidence of these infections. Compliance with these protocols, driven by the insights gleaned from clinical analytics, directly correlates with improved patient outcomes.

Through the work of clinical analytics teams, hospitals can develop data dashboards that provide frontline leaders with essential information for performance improvement. These dashboards enable leaders to drill down to individual units within a hospital and compare their performance against peers on various metrics, including hand hygiene, medication reconciliation, education and other specific process issues. This level of specificity enables targeted strategies for enhancing performance and achieving the best outcomes for patients.

Data Drives Quality Care

Data is dynamic, and the implementation of clinical analytics has resulted in continuous changes and improvements in health care practices at St. Luke’s Health. Regular committee meetings, such as infection prevention committees, facilitate the sharing of lessons learned and the identification of opportunities for improvement. 

When an adverse outcome, such as a hospital-acquired infection, occurs, it is thoroughly investigated and discussed with the aim of preventing similar incidents in the future. The clinical analytics team plays a vital role in identifying these opportunities and supporting the organization's commitment to continuous improvement.

Structurally, St. Luke’s Health has adopted a system-based approach to clinical analytics. The sophistication of data analytics teams enables the aggregation of data from multiple hospitals or facilities, allowing for a broader view of trends and priorities. By analyzing data from a larger area, we can identify high-priority areas for improvement and allocate resources accordingly. This system-based approach ensures a consistent focus on quality and patient safety across the entire organization.

Driving Change Beyond Numbers

Health care contains so many variables it can be hard to know whether your initiatives are improving outcomes for patients. However, consistent improvement can be achieved and monitored through data-driven strategies. Collecting and analyzing data can help hospitals achieve national measures, such as CMS star ratings and Leapfrog scores, that serve as benchmarks for health care quality. Over the past few years, St. Luke’s Health has demonstrated consistent improvement in these metrics. This progress reflects the dedication to patient-centered care and the effective use of clinical analytics to drive positive change.

By leveraging clinical analytics, hospitals can continuously enhance the quality and safety of care they provide, striving toward the goal of delivering the highest standard of care to every patient. At St. Luke’s Health, clinical analytics is a transformative tool that allows us to grow and improve by leveraging those data-driven insights. Quality and patient safety aren’t new ideals, but we ground these ideals in the science of health care and backed by concrete data. St. Luke’s Health takes this mission seriously, investing substantial resources to ensure we consistently deliver the highest quality and safest care possible to the communities we serve.

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