Hospitals and health care organizations collect vast amounts of data. While this data provides a glimpse of the care provided and related costs, it provides little insight into the patient’s journey through the health care system or the impact of hospital care on their outcomes, total cost or overall satisfaction.
Berg Data Solutions is on a mission to change this. The Washington-based startup focuses on optimizing health care, collecting open health data and using analytics to gain an understanding of trends. Through a data visualization interface, reports are available to fuel health care optimization efforts for 40,000 organizations across the US. To do this, Berg Data looks at a variety of data elements, including data on individual organizations and how they compare with others.
“We have data for every hospital, home health agency, hospice program and skilled nursing facility in the country,” says Berg Data partner Marc Berg. “This allows us to identify optimization opportunities for these providers to improve financial performance, patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes.”
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Meet industry standards, save a million dollars
Berg Data Solutions uses Medicare claims data, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services quality and patient satisfaction data, and Social Security data on Medicare enrollment and deaths. The company distills roughly 100 million records down to 2,000 unique data points. The data is then loaded into SAS Visual Analytics and disseminated online to customers.
Reports differ by provider type and include profiles for both the provider and the industry. The provider profile includes data on the current state of the provider. The industry profile shows how the provider ranks within its industry, and what levels of performance are possible by embracing the best practices of similar organizations.
“If every hospital reached the average of these metrics, they could save an average of one million dollars a year. And that's every year, just by moving a few metrics to average,” says Marc Berg.
From concept to production in 15 months
With savings potential of this magnitude, seemingly every hospital in America would have an analytics department churning out similar reports. But the uptake has been slow.
“What we've seen over the last decade or two is that big data has transformed many industries, but in large part, it skipped health care,” says Marc Berg. Having spent his career in health care, he had the idea to pair his industry expertise with his son, Alex’s, analytical skills to form Berg Data Solutions. The duo describe themselves as the Moneyball of the health care industry.
The Bergs went from idea to prototype in just 15 months. While Alex learned SAS code online at Penn State University, Marc went about acquiring the data and configuring a cloud environment. To test the service, they met with six different organizations. The Bergs were hoping for a friendly take on a new product, but the response surprised them. Two of the organizations immediately asked for exclusive arrangements that prevented competitors from getting the information. Soon, a business was born.
If every hospital reached the average of these metrics, they could save an average of one million dollars a year. And that's every year, just by moving a few metrics to average. Marc Berg Partner Berg Data Solutions
Data without insight is unrealized value
Eager to deliver value, they filled early reports with data, expecting customers to extract the insight needed to drive change. Instead, customers complained of information overload.
“We worked with one large national organization,” says Marc Berg. “They told us the data's great, the tool's great, but it's really the strategic insight that adds value. That was an a-ha moment for us, because we thought the insights were obvious.”
Berg Data Solutions shifted its business model to meet customer demand. Now, in addition to delivering the data, the company helps customers interpret the data – showing them how it fits into their operations and what actions are needed to realize the opportunities.
Multiple sectors served
The utility of its reports allows Berg Data to cast a wide net. Among its first customers was a national consulting firm. By nature, firms of this size usually require eight weeks to research new clients, which is expensive. Using Berg Data’s reports, the firm found it could get the same information in as little as one week.
“We've automated what was a semi-manual task for assessing organizations,” says Marc Berg.
Health care providers use the data in different but valuable ways. Seeing how they compare to national averages allows providers to expose weaknesses. Often, these areas impact the bottom line. Administrator are hoping to find a way to shift operations to meet industry standards by looking at:
- Length of stay.
- Referral rates to hospice and how they impact mortality in the hospital.
- Use of home health and the impact on readmissions.
- Use of long-term hospitals in freeing up critical care beds.
Any of these can offer substantial health and financial benefits. To optimize health care outcomes, it’s critical to examine all data available.
“Often providers can't see this because they don't have the whole picture across the continuum,” says Marc Berg. “We can point out the low-hanging fruit that allows them to save money and improve care.”
Visual analytics shows the full story
SAS Visual Analytics enables the startup to see trends across the entire US health care system. One interesting finding is the extreme variation in care, which Marc notes might not surprise the average consumer, but is striking when quantified in terms of health outcomes and cost. Reducing that variation, says Berg, would drastically cut costs and optimize health care outcomes.
“As we look at the data, the story just becomes blatantly clear,” says Marc Berg. He credits SAS Visual Analytics for exposing the story. “It’s the most intuitive program there is,” he says. “It's super easy, and we've done great reports with it. Everywhere we present, people love it.”
The Bergs are enthusiastic about the potential of health care optimization through analytics. “There's so much opportunity for optimization in health care that goes unrealized,” says Marc Berg. “These health care providers think they've found every opportunity for improvement, but many times they can't see the forest for the trees.”