A healthier future thanks to analytics
CrescentCare improves community outreach and patient outcomes through better data analysis
When you think of data analysis, what’s the first thing that comes to mind: Relevant data? Ease of use? Or perhaps interactive reports and dashboards? Chances are you’re not thinking about the fight against HIV, or meal services for cancer patients, or health care services for women.
Seema Gai is working to change that.
As CIO at CrescentCare, Gai is spearheading efforts to improve medical care and better serve community members in New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana. A key element in this effort is SAS, which helps administrators and medical professionals make smarter decisions about critical services.
Extending its reach through a full spectrum of care
Formerly known as the NO/AIDS Task Force, CrescentCare formed 30 years ago to provide health services and compassionate support to thousands of people affected by HIV and AIDS. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, community-based health care centers like CrescentCare can become Federally Qualified Health Centers.
“Once we earned that designation, we became eligible for additional funding to expand our scope of services,” Gai says. With that opportunity came an increased need for business intelligence and analytics to explore patient data and prepare reports for internal and external customers.
CrescentCare now provides everything from primary medical care, dental, OB/GYN and behavioral health services to counseling, housing, transportation and meal services. Now the organization can provide more vital programs and assistance to clients from traditionally underserved communities in the area.
“Prior to becoming a Federally Qualified Health Center, we had a specific food bank and food pantry program for HIV patients,” Gai says. “But now we’re able to provide these services and meal deliveries to cancer patients, too.”
As programs and services expanded, so did the volume of patients – and subsequently, the amount of data accumulated. CrescentCare now has 6,000 clients across its programs, and it connects with more than 20,000 people annually through HIV-prevention efforts. From these efforts, the agency collects data from many sources, like electronic health records, insurers, case management services, support services and a risk management system.
CrescentCare used a traditional reporting tool, but the agency needed a better way to manage its growing data, understand key factors influencing patient care and intervene as early as possible. “We have nine different locations, and each location offers a combination of services,” Gai says. “We needed to consolidate data for each service – which comes from different information systems – and build a better data management infrastructure. So we turned to SAS Visual Analytics. Now we can analyze and explore our data through interactive, visual reports.”
We engage patients from different angles, with the goal of empowering them to overcome or better manage their health and wellness challenges. And it all revolves around interactive data exploration and the ability to make sense of complex data. Seema Gai CIO CrescentCare
‘They’re not just data points – they’re people’
CrescentCare uses SAS to study its patient population, determining how to meet clients’ needs and what improvements could be made.
“When we talk about managing and analyzing data, we’re talking about human lives – promoting healthy habits, taking preventative measures, and caring for the sick and disadvantaged,” Gai says. “They’re not just data points – they’re people.”
CrescentCare primarily uses SAS Visual Analytics for patient reporting and discovery, and SAS Enterprise Guide for data preparation and regulatory reporting. Both technologies are firmly integrated into the agency’s business intelligence and analytics strategy.
One group that CrescentCare evaluates is the “lost to care” patient population – individuals who stopped attending medical appointments or services. “If an HIV patient hasn’t shown up to a clinic in a certain number of days, we can detect this absence and determine how to reconnect with them and encourage them to continue their care services,” Gai explains.
CrescentCare collaborates with local agencies to quickly determine if an HIV patient moved outside its coverage area, transferred to another care facility or passed away. And the organization can reconcile that information so that it's readily available to the appropriate care teams.
Guiding patients on a path to wellness
Since CrescentCare began using analytics to track data pertaining to the health of HIV patients, it has seen promising results. From 2011 to 2015, viral load suppression rates steadily increased from 69 percent to 81 percent. This suggests that patients are increasingly following their care regimens and responding to medical treatments.
“We identify high-risk patients based on lab and vital sign values, and the patients are classified as high need on provider schedules on a monthly basis,” Gai says. “Through this process, nurses initiate conversations with patients at the point of care, helping them avoid contracting other illnesses like hepatitis C or HIV.”
This system also helps CrescentCare encourage patients to better manage their existing health issues. “We looked at our database and identified the four top chronic conditions in our community: HIV, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease,” Gai says. “Then we built a model with SAS Enterprise Guide for each and applied a scoring algorithm, which categorized patients as high, medium or low needs.” CrescentCare shares that information with nurses and case managers to proactively guide each patient’s care plan and help patients work on self-management goals.
“Patients get encouragement and support,” Gai says. “We can connect them to the ideal specialists, counselors and advocates based on their individual needs. Essentially, there’s an entire care team available to each patient to help them on their journey to a healthier life. We engage patients from different angles, with the goal of empowering them to overcome or better manage their health and wellness challenges. And it all revolves around interactive data exploration and the ability to make sense of complex data.”