New opportunities create a sense of excitement – A showcase for the management of healthcare data

Helse Nord has, with the help of SAS Institute, acquired good command of its data and is now reaping the rewards by implementing SAS® Visual Analytics. The ambition is to be a showcase, demonstrating the management of business data within the healthcare sector.

Helse Nord RHF is a regional health authority and is located in Bodø, Norway. It has responsibility for four health trusts, with a total of 11 hospitals and approximately 14,000 employees. As a regional health authority, Helse Nord is responsible for specialist healthcare services in Northern Norway and Svalbard, with a geographical coverage of forty-five percent of the whole of Norway.

We enter the raw data directly into Visual Analytics without having to deal with the pre-calculated data, as we did in the past. This provides us with entirely new opportunities to retrieve the information that users have requested, and to generate reports based upon their requirements and wishes.

Paul Christian Hjemås
Quality Manager, Helse Nord RHF

Helse Nord has worked closely with SAS Institute for many years and has, thanks to a data warehousing solution, good command of the business data associated with the areas of patient administration, finance and HR. The health authority has found it easy to enter data into the solution, but has previously found it challenging to visualise this data. With SAS Institute’s refined user interface for Visual Analytics, which is available for computers, tablets and smartphones, Helse Nord has now acquired a range of new possibilities that are amazing its employees.

“Over the past 6-8 months, we have gained real control over our business data and have been able to give our employees a tool that swiftly provides them with the necessary information. This has created a sense of excitement”, says Hilde Rolandsen, Owner Manager at Helse Nord.

See the video in which Quality Manager Paul Hjemås talks about how Helse Nord has gained better insights into its own business by the extensive use of analyses.

Good data in, good data out
“We enter the raw data directly into Visual Analytics without having to deal with the pre-calculated data, as we did in the past. This provides us with entirely new opportunities to retrieve the information that users have requested, and to generate reports based upon their requirements and wishes”, says Helse Nord’s Quality Manager Paul Hjemås.

When the organisation moved away from working with aggregated data, it acquired many more users. Today, Helse Nord operates with high-resolution data that allows users to drill all the way down to a very low level. This gives Helse Nord the opportunity to use the data warehousing solution to detect any errors or shortcomings in the treatment of patients.

“The fact that we can now drill all the way down to view data for individual patients has given us increased value. Patient data is anonymised, so this does not mean that we are able to monitor individual patients, recognisable by name or any other identifiable indicators. But, if we were to find something on the individual level that we would like to address, the healthcare staff can follow up these findings in our production system and implement any measures for the relevant patient there”, says Hjemås. “The safeguarding of our patients’ privacy is, therefore, at the very heart of our work concerning the use of patient data.”

Better control over waiting lists
Government authorities exert a large amount of pressure to ensure that waiting-list promises are met. SAS Visual Analytics has been an important tool in the work undertaken in this area.

“The feedback from hospital staff has been very positive. Among other things, this concerned the following-up of data for waiting-times. We have become better with time-planning and are able to identify where the procedures are inadequate. We have seen a reduction in waiting-times and this can be attributed to the fact that we now have better command over our patient information”, says Rolandsen.

Important management tool
Thanks to this solution, many managers have gained access to data that was previously unavailable to them. Information that is held within systems such as DIPS contains sensitive data, but this data is retrieved and presented anonymously in the solution. This means that anyone that wants to analyse the data shall be able to access it, and also that it has now become more possible to manage the data according to real factual information.

“It is now much easier to compile data and to generate good reports for the end user, based upon data that is updated daily. This provides a comprehensive overview of finances and costs. If a manager can see red figures in their list of costs, they can quickly see where the problem is and are able to take fast and certain action”, says Hjemås.

Following up unwanted occurrences
Helse Nord is concerned with making continuous improvements and works actively with patient security.

“We want to learn from any unwanted occurrences and we use journals to document any unwanted patient-incidents. By searching within the journals, we can look for predefined triggers that indicate that an undesirable incident has occurred”, says Hjemås.

The next step in this area for Helse Nord concerns attempting to predict whether there are any groups of patients that may require any special attention in certain areas. In time, this could lead to the creation of new procedures to reduce the chance of unwanted events occurring.

More-efficient staffing
It is important to have an overview of employees and Helse Nord has full control of its HR data, which means that it is able to drill down to view data on a detailed level in all areas. It is now possible, for example, to predict recruitment needs by identifying a future shortage of certain types of hospital personnel, based on the staff’s current age composition.

Work is being done with implementing so-called GAT data – concerning on-call duties, when people are working or on sick-leave, etc. – into the solution. In the long term, this will enable a manager to identify the times of day that have the most patients, and to schedule staff accordingly.

“The objective is to reach the point where we can plan our staffing to reflect the number of patients we have at any particular time. We currently work with a flat staffing plan but, now that we have more facts on the table, we can begin to think differently and, in the future, will be able to move to an activity-based planning of staffing”, says Hjemås.

“Visual Analytics has become an important tool that presents the continually updated status of the health authority, and we want to be regarded as a forerunner, showcasing the management of business data within the healthcare sector”, says Bjørn Nilsen, IT Director at Helse Nord.

About Helse Nord

The Northern Norway Regional Health Authority (Helse Nord RHF) is responsible for the public hospitals in northern Norway.

The Regional Health Authority was established on the 1st January 2002 when the central government took over the responsibility for the hospital services from the county councils. The aim of the Regional Health Authority is to provide the necessary specialist health services for the population of northern Norway and Svalbard. Learn more

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Read more about SAS solutions for the healthcare sector



The Helse Nord regional health authority had a need for a modern analysis and reporting platform that could provide new working processes and better support to underpin decision-making


A project with a focus on data quality, the facilitation of analysis data, and the introduction of a modern analysis and reporting tool: SAS® Visual Analytics


Better insight into its own organisation with extensive use of analyses and new “paperless” reporting processes

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