In-house analytics helps Piedmont Healthcare battle infection

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An infection control program at Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta cut the 11-hospital delivery system’s infection rate by 40 percent in the first year of the initiative.

The system has used analytics to make progress against vexing problems, such as identifying potential sepsis patients before their conditions deteriorate.

For Mark Jackson, director of business intelligence, the initial results are gratifying, but they also have become life-changing. “This was a much bigger task than I ever anticipated,” he says. “It’s now a career path and I enjoy it and can really make a difference. It’s something I never stop selling as a champion.”

The project was supported by Exasol, the vendor of an analytics database that operates much like Google, Jackson explains. Exasol is user-friendly enough for analytics to be done in-house. “Enter a query, and an array of servers are searched, and all the findings come back together,” he says. “Someone can ask a question, and I can answer it immediately. I don’t have to figure out an answer for four hours.”

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Before selecting the vendor, Piedmont Healthcare already was familiar with Exasol, having used the software to assist in reporting quality measures to the Leapfrog Group, a coalition of employers seeking improved quality of care at lower prices.

Having recently grown from eight hospitals to 11 and looking for more, the analytics platform will support expansion, Jackson says. “Now, we can do deeper dives as we add hospitals and the data grows as well.”

Before selecting the analytics platform, Piedmont struggled with massive data sets that took six to eight hours to update, and it took as long as one month to create a new analytics dashboard to meet a request, Jackson recalls. “Now, I can add a new field or rule for requested analyses on the fly. Sets that took up to eight hours to refresh now take a few minutes.”

Most importantly, Jackson notes, the platform also is helping to improve the fight against sepsis by analyzing the contributing factors for patients entering into septic shock. A sepsis dashboard tracks the care being given to patients over a period of three to six hours and compiles metrics to better understand the how the patient is doing and if interventions must be done.

Exasol also is capable of exposing a lot more data sets to deliver insights to various clinicians and departments in the delivery system beyond the initial infection control initiative, such as finance, budgeting, management of patients, and analysis of patient satisfaction scores and service requests to the IT department.

Further, the analytics tool also serves as the engine that provides data to Piedmont’s Tableau Software visualization tool which manipulates data into a visual form that can be better understood, Jackson says.

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