UTMB Discover: Uncovering opportunities through state-of-the-art data collection, analysis

Dec 20, 2016, 14:15 PM by Stephen Hadley
UTMB Discover
UTMB Discover, an enterprise data warehouse and analytical toolkit for the volumes of data generated throughout the institution, will enable better, more efficient decision making by UTMB’s leadership while supporting front-line initiatives that improve patient care, enhance research initiatives and support our academic mission.

More than a warehouse in the traditional sense where information is simply stored, the UTMB Discover initiative includes the development of applications to aggregate data from all of UTMB’s mission areas into one location where it can be connected, compared and analyzed.

“We’re behind the times organizationally in taking full advantage of the data that we already have in our control so this is our golden opportunity to step ahead and really empower people in the moment with the data they need to make good decisions,” said UTMB’s Chief Quality, Safety and Clinical Information Officer Mark Kirschbaum. “At the front line, we should be informing people’s decisions with data. Our intent with UTMB Discover is to empower the front-line employee with the data they need to do their job even better on a day-to-day basis.”

Kirschbaum said the initial applications being developed as part of UTMB Discover focus on Health System data—specifically readmissions and surgical services—as well as general ledger financial data. Plans for future expansion call for development of applications to work with data to support the research and educational missions of UTMB.

Dustin Thomas, UTMB’s vice president for Decision Support, said the initial applications—Readmissions Explorer, Surgical Services Explorer and Key Process Analysis—have been developed with the help of third-party vendor HealthCatalyst.

Utah-based HealthCatalyst has years of experience creating similar programs for health systems throughout the U.S. and is helping UTMB accelerate its process of launching applications to begin working with the data it has collected. The first three applications are set to launch in December.

“Each of these three applications are designed to give us a 30,000-foot-view of what’s going on within those areas,” Thomas said. “Key Process Analysis will look at financial and clinical variation opportunities. Readmissions Explorer will examine the incidence of patients returning to the hospital sooner than they should be as compared to our peers. Finally, Surgical Services Explorer will look at whether we’re using our operating rooms, delivery rooms and procedural areas in the most efficient way that we can.”

UTMB Discover also helps support the Best Care initiative by providing real-time data to identify areas for improvement within the care environment, Kirschbaum said.

“If you were to pick one of the Best Care initiatives—such as mortality—this information is going to help us both identify cases where we perhaps had a care component to that mortality that we could do better on and also potentially isolate when it was just a documentation issue and not a care problem,” he said. “That allows us to look at what can we do to enhance our documentation so that our expected rate of mortality is accurate.”

In addition to its clinical applications, UTMB Discover will enable the institution to conduct several new areas of research, said Allan Brasier, MD, professor of Internal Medicine and director of the Institute for Translational Sciences and the Sealy Center for Molecular Medicine.

“A major current focus for the Institute for Translational Sciences is to expand our clinical trials activities,” Brasier said. “UTMB Discover will enable us to identify where patients with certain diseases are being cared for in the health system, and by whom, so that we can conduct more efficient recruitment activities to meet the study requirements.”

Brasier added that UTMB Discover would make it possible for researchers to systematically evaluate and study the effects of implementing health care improvement processes on patient outcomes.

“For example, we have projects seeking to identify the reasons for why some patients are at risk for early readmission, and to develop strategies to reduce these reasons. This tool will allow us to understand the characteristics of these high-risk patients, identify them earlier and evaluate the effect of various delivery improvements throughout the health system.”

UTMB Discover goalsUTMB Discover also has significant applications with population health, which requires an examination of data that resides outside of UTMB to focus on keeping people in general healthier. Investing in prevention of disease, working with primary care physicians to avoid major hospitalizations as well as finding ways to treat those hospitalizations and illnesses in the most efficient manner drives population health initiatives, Thomas said. UTMB Discover will help support population health directives by giving UTMB the tools to see how its care fits into the communities it serves.

Loren Skinner, vice president and chief operating officer for the Academic Enterprise, said UTMB Discover represents a new way to support UTMB’s missions and help the organization thrive as it moves forward in the years to come.

“When UTMB Discover is fully implemented, it will provide users across UTMB the ability to access detailed, flexible and accurate views of clinical, research, administrative and financial data which can support our all of the missions of an academic medical center,” Skinner said. “This information will be available to all, including clinicians, researchers and students.”