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The benefits of analytics in healthcare

Johannesburg, South Africa  (27 Sep. 2013)  –  By: Goran Dragosavac, Solutions Manager: Information Management at SAS South Africa

In any industry, the organisations that can adapt quickly and intelligently to changing market forces will succeed in the long term. In the health industry in particular, organisations need to contain costs and respond quickly to changes globally and locally. There has never been a greater need to get trusted insights from data, and the use of health analytics is critical.

Analytics can be applied and will deliver insights to most areas of healthcare, with the impact of curing people faster, saving lives, controlling outbreaks of disease, running hospitals more efficiently, controlling costs and allocating staff where they are needed most.

Analytics can also help to deliver answers to questions by analysing masses of data and looking for patterns or probabilities. For instance, in disease management, it can deliver likely probabilities of outcomes, interpret contributing factors to infection rates, or interpret desirable and undesirable patterns to either prevent them from recurring or replicate them as desired.

Analysing and improving outcomes
An analytics solution can also perform clinical outcomes analysis, looking at features like mortality, morbidity, re-admittance rates, changes in birth and death rates, time to recovery and the patient's own perception of their care and progress.

Through a historical record of outcome experiences, caregivers will know better which treatment modalities result in better outcomes for patients. Effective outcomes management often relies on a successful data warehousing strategy designed to track outcomes in all these areas.

The same successes are offered in the area of financial outcomes, covering measures such as length of hospital stay, net margins, cost breakouts, number of ER visits and office visits. Analytics can also be turned to fraud and abuse – the most frequent of which arises from a false statement or misrepresentation that results in a payment to a physician or other practitioner, hospital or other institutional provider, clinical laboratory or other provider, billing service, beneficiary or any person in a position to file a claim for payment or benefits.

Minimising medical errors
The issue of reducing medical errors is a heated topic. The key to decreasing these errors is to properly identify them and analyse their causes, and then change the system to prevent them happening in future.

Some adverse events are not preventable, representing a risk associated with treatment, such as a life-threatening allergic reaction to a drug when the patient has no known allergies to it. But there are many other types of medical errors, including equipment failure, infections, blood transfusion-related injuries, misinterpretation of medical order, incorrect medicines or prescriptions, surgical errors and lab report errors. By identifying patterns in these, it is possible to do what is necessary to educate the people involved – patients and caregivers – to reduce their incidents.

Performance management
Healthcare provider organisations can use performance management methodologies backed by analytics to focus on their key challenges of ensuring that their employees and capital assets are helping them to accomplish their strategic goals, how they will excel in their key business areas, how they are going to create loyalty with key stakeholders, and how they are going to sustain their ability to enhance the value of the organisation.

As with any other industry, healthcare can derive a wealth of benefits from turning analytics to the mass of data the industry generates. The only distinguishing factor for the healthcare industry is that the benefits realised can save lives and ensure wellbeing, so their need is far more pressing.  

About SAS

SAS is the leader in business analytics software and services, and the largest independent vendor in the business intelligence market. With innovative business applications supported by an enterprise intelligence platform, SAS helps 65,000 organizations improve performance and deliver value by making better decisions faster. Since 1976 SAS has been giving customers around the world The Power to Know® .

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