Healthcare analytics approaches are growing in maturity, helping providers achieve savings and efficiencies in a variety of areas, ranging from cutting supply acquisition costs to helping them analyze which patients need specific types of care.

At the Tableau Conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday, several providers offered insights on their initiatives and spelled out some of the early successes of their efforts.

Savings on supply procurement is a key strategy at BJC Healthcare, a St. Louis-based healthcare system. Lynn Kersting, its strategic manager of supply chain analytics, said the organization is aiming to centralize purchasing and use analytics to reduce supply spending to 19 percent of total revenue, from current levels of about 23 percent.

“Every one percent reduction in supply spending is equal to hiring 500 full-time equivalent caregivers,” Kersting said. “We’re on a multi-year strategic journey to evaluate how we purchase supplies.”

Analytics have played a key role in early efforts to improve visibility into supply purchases, which historically had been handled by each hospital within the system. Advanced analytics software helped the system gain insight, and so far it’s saved $212 million on supply chain spending over the past four years.

The organization is ramping up the initiative to include analysis of utilization management and formulary management, Kersting said.

Also See: Top Challenges to Analytics in Healthcare? Not Technology

Swedish Medical Group, a not-for-profit health system based in Seattle, has been able to use analytics to improve its ability to track patient care and engage clinicians with data.

Swedish, which affiliated with Providence Health in 2011, had used a “self-service” approach before 2011, by which clinical staff and administrators could request reports. The approach resulted in a variety of reports, slow response times, lack of uniformity around metrics and distrust of the underlying data.

In 2012, Swedish implemented a centralized analytics platform that it branded as Vantage. It offered clinicians access to standardized reports with instant response times, drill-down capabilities and the ability to customize searches. Physician input was incorporated in the development of underlying data, so trust rose.

The use of Vantage has grown from 20 users and two hits on the analytics portal in 2012 until now, where 24,000 users have access to the portal, which gets 15,000 hits a month, said Meghan Brandabur, program administrator for health intelligence at Providence Health.

Changes in physician reimbursement have been a big driver for the heightened interest in Vantage, said Ann Goldman, director of healthcare intelligence at Providence Health and Services. Physician reimbursement is partly dependent on performance, and that’s increased interest in tracking progress toward achieving care goals.

One of those goals is to increase rates for screening patients for colorectal, breast and cervical cancer. That’s now tracked on Vantage, enabling physicians to see where they stand in their screening rates. Because the system is transparent in making data available, they’re also able to compare themselves with their peers, increasing competition and the interest in improving performance.

The organization set a system-wide target of 62.1 percent for screening patients at risk for having the three cancers. Only a few years ago, physicians were screening only 30 percent of patients who would benefit from the screenings. This past July, it achieved the target goal it set – now, it’s pressing on.

“If our doctors don’t have the data, how are they going to change things?” Brandabur asked. “They need to know what patients need to be screened. We started out showing them the metrics, and then they wanted more. We can give them patient detail reporting for every physician who wants to look.”

The change in physician interest was highlighted recently when a clinic administrator called the analytics team and said the new ability to identify patients who lacked cancer screenings resulted in eight patients being diagnosed with colon cancer. Without the prodding to screen, those patients would have not been identified with the cancer at an early, treatable stage.

“This was the first time our team got emotional about using the software,” Brandabur said. “That was the first time that we got it, that we are actually really saving lives by what we do with analytics.”

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