Analytics Helping Docs Improve Wound Care, Predict Outcomes

Healogics, an organization of wound care physicians treating patients in nearly 800 hospital outpatient clinics, can take data from 150,000 patients and predict pretty well which ones will fail to heal appropriately or have to undergo an amputation within the next 16 weeks.

The growing ability to predict patients most at risk, right now a proof of concept program, came recently as Healogics is working with Stanford University, Ohio State University and the University of Miami. The idea is to help physicians better treat these patients, track them to make sure they aren’t missing appointments, and if the patient can’t be healed, to manage the condition so it doesn’t get worse.

Having information to inform physicians prospectively of the highest risk patients and the ability to change patient outcomes shows the power of data analytics, says Jeff Nelson, CEO at the Jacksonville, Fla.-based company, which has spent $15 million over the past four years building its data analytics capability. Today, the database, called i-heal, holds information on more than 1 million unique patients, equating to 2.6 million wounds.

Also See: EHRs, Analytics Merge to Head Off Alzheimer’s

Non-healing chronic wounds such as diabetic foot ulcers, pressure ulcers, inadequate blood flow from arterial ulcers and vascular disease account for about 90 percent of chronic wounds, which are particularly prevalent among the 26 million Americans estimated to have diabetes, according to the company.

About one-third of the wound clinics have a proprietary wound care electronic health records system also called i-heal, that feeds data into the database and also interfaces with a hospital’s EHR. The other clinics, using a variety of EHRs, must manually key information into the database. Like other providers in the industry, Healogics faces a common problem—not having sufficient information exchange capabilities in most markets.

Healogics has used various types of databases since the early 2000s. Work stated with vendor Net Health in 2011 to create i-heal as a standard database, along with uniform processes for collecting and analyzing data across clinics in 46 states. Healogics developed its own proprietary analytics software, which has been very helpful because of no need to hire others to write code, Nelson says.  Extensive and uniform physician/clinician training also has been implemented over the years to the degree that everyone measures and photographs wounds the same way so that images in the database are standardized.

Healogics has an analytics services team to assist in conducting analytics, but also has developed a “serve yourself” platform for those who want to do their own analysis. The next step is to allow individual centers to do deep-dive analytics. Another new initiative will focus on better understanding referring physician, the types of patients they treat and the frequency that they make referrals, and importantly, whether they have stopped referring, which could be a lagging indicator of Healogics’ quality. The company also wants to collect and analyze discrete data to better understand billing and decision support processes.

Overall, however, analytics is not for the faint at heart, Nelson says. “This is a lot harder than it looks. But it is encouraging that the opportunity exists to significantly improve care for each patient.”

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.