Dignity Health, with 39 hospitals, about 340 other provider sites and 9,000 affiliated providers, has a lot of disparate information systems and doesn’t have software to correlate data among them.

The organization can run basic descriptive reports, but needs to move to a far higher level of data analytics to better assess the care being given, patient safety and overall population health management.

That’s why Dignity Health recently signed a five-year contract with analytics vendor SAS to build a private data warehouse. A prime goal is being able to better understand social and behavioral factors of patients that can pinpoint possible barriers to good outcomes, says Joseph Colorafi, M.D., vice president and CMIO.

For instance, a patient may be successfully discharged from a hospital but wind up being readmitted because of a dental condition--which is a medical condition--that resulted in sepsis. Or, a patient may not have a car and could have difficulty getting to doctor appointments. These more than 100 other variables could affect a patient’s progress toward better health and Dignity Health wants to analyze variables to predict the risk of readmission before discharge.

As fee-for-service payments start being phased out, analyzing clinical, financial, behavioral and social variables is necessary to prosper in an emerging era of value-based payments, Colorafi says. “It’s a matter of being able to risk-adjust groups and being able to manage the risk.”

Dignity Health, for example, needs to analyze the limits of disposable income as costs continue to shift to patients, and build engagement models--such as affordable payment plans--or face patients not getting care when they should because cost is a barrier.

Initial analysis of data will focus on reducing readmissions, improving early biosurveillance of sepsis, and implementing more effective use of order sets, according to Colorafi. Putting in the data warehouse and analytics tools comes at a time when Dignity Health is about two-thirds through its implementation of electronic health records systems from Cerner Corp., which will give more consistent and easy-to-find data. “We have to operationalize the knowledge and put it in the hands of clinicians and administrators to use.”

The organization selected SAS because it is a worldwide analytics leader that has the scale to handle the size of the project, will host the warehouse, and added significant resources to enable Dignity Health to ramp up quickly, Colorafi says.

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