Today I sit on an airplane waiting for our turn to taxi and takeoff. We boarded the plane about 20 minutes behind schedule, and then we wait. I’m going to arrive late for my meeting if I make it at all.
This makes me think about business intelligence and ways it can be used to improve our on-time picture or how it is used to mask the fact that I, the customer, was inconvenienced. If this model were applied to healthcare, would it work?
The healthcare industry has a lot of built-in delays. We wait at the emergency room to be admitted. We wait for our results to return and the subsequent diagnosis. We wait to be discharged. Sometimes, as a healthcare professional, we wait to get paid. After all this waiting, we still don’t get everything we need.
Business intelligence offers a way to fix some of this. I have been personally involved with projects where ED wait times are calculated in real-time and projected on the ED wall for all to know. ED staff is competitive and will immediately notice areas of inefficiency and take steps to fix this. The end result is a better use of facilities and happier patients.
Business intelligence tools are also used to figure out the cause of some delays. Drill-down techniques are used to find areas that are sluggish. Once the area has been identified, the analyst, physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional can drill through multiple dimensions to find the cause.
For example, the choke point for getting lab results might be tracked back to a clerk whose job is to enter the lab results into the computer when they are received. This clerk might do this on a schedule and the results could sit on a rack for hours or even days before they are entered. BI could be used to figure this out and look for workarounds.
Another example is physician waiting rooms. It is possible to determine when a patient arrives, how long they sit in a room full of sick people, how quickly they get taken into the back for vitals, how soon the doctor sees them, and when they pay their co-pay. All of this can be tracked using business intelligence systems. Once it is tracked, it can be analyzed to find problem areas and sources of these problems.
Using business intelligence effectively is a conscious decision. It requires infrastructure and commitment. It must be started with the goal of knowing things are broken, the desire to understand what is broken, and the insatiable demand to fix these broken processes. If this intensity doesn’t exist, BI is just a nuisance.