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SAS® helps Carolinas Medical Center enhance patient care
Intuition has always played a key role in healthcare. But in an era of cost cutting, complex medical procedures and increased pressure to reduce errors, more hospital leaders are turning to fact-based business intelligence to treat and prevent problems.
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Assistant Vice President and Executive Director of the R. Stuart Dickson Institute for Health Studies, Carolinas Medical Center
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At Carolinas Medical Center, SAS helps the 795-bed flagship hospital of Carolinas HealthCare System plumb its own data to determine nursing workloads, conduct health services research, act on patient survey information, identify preventable complications, assess laboratory processing times and help the rural communities it serves understand their major health threats.
CMC doesn't just use SAS to deal with the large amount of data collected from the hospital; it also meshes that material with external sources, such as Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ) measures. And it does this in a way that makes it easy for physicians and nurses to use the information directly – without relying on programmers to compile reports.
"There is no tool other than SAS that can handle the massive amounts of data we manipulate and analyze," says Sherry Laurent, assistant vice president and executive director of the R. Stuart Dickson Institute for Health Studies at Carolinas Medical Center.
Competing demands: cutting costs and improving quality
Now, hospitals are also under increased pressure to reduce errors. The 1999 Institute of Medicine report – which revealed that 98,000 people die each year because of preventable medical mistakes – has become a rallying cry for consumer, government and business groups, including Leapfrog, that want data driven, evidence-based healthcare delivery.
Hospital executives can only improve care or cut costs in collaboration with their physicians – a group that respects benchmarking efforts as long as it takes into account the severity of illness of the patients they treat. For instance, patients with the same primary diagnosis could have anywhere from one to 19 secondary diagnoses. How you benchmark the care of an otherwise healthy 40-year-old who has had a heart attack is very different from the way you would benchmark a 65-year-old who has had a heart attack and also has diabetes and high blood pressure. If physicians treating heart attack patients with many co-morbidities are shown the benchmarking data for younger, healthier patients, they are likely to misinterpret the meaning of those benchmarks.
But SAS is powerful enough to handle complex benchmarking – and that's important to the physicians in helping them to understand their patient population. "Unless the physicians can see the hard data, they do not feel that it applies to them," Laurent says.
Using SAS® to solve problems, improve care
With SAS, they've helped the staff:
For Laurent, perhaps the best part about using SAS is that she's no longer obligated to engage pricey consultants when a study needs to be done. If the raw data exists, she can use SAS to turn it into intelligence. "It used to be, 'You give us $10,000 and we'll generate a report.' Now we generate the report," Laurent says.
And, as often as possible, administrators and physicians are using SAS to obtain the answers themselves using their PCs and an intuitive point-and-click interface for their ad hoc queries.
The future: more up-to-date data to more people
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Carolinas Medical Center
Use data driven tools to improve patient care and keep expenses in check.
Carolinas Medical Center implemented SAS solutions to bring timely data to physicians, nurses and administrators.
“ There is no tool other than SAS that can handle the massive amounts of data we're working with. ”
assistant vice president and executive director of the R. Stuart Dickson Institute for Health Studies at Carolinas Medical Center