Other UsesBy Darrell Dunn | Posted 2007-10-30 Print
Major acquisitions and increased deployments are pushying bsiness intelligence to the forefront of IT strategy. Here's a look at what works—and what hurdles remain.
Intensifying regulatory requirements and the critical nature of data had directors at Maine Medical Center (MMC) in Portland looking for a more accurate, flexible way to create employee "scorecards" for nurses and doctors to track performance and patient satisfaction.
"We were refining our structure of accountability around patient safety and quality, with the expectation that every department would have definable initiatives for improvement on strategic objectives," says J. Peter Chingos, manager of data analysis for performance improvement at the hospital.
The hospital's previous efforts had been limited to spreadsheets and a common scorecard for all workers and departments. The scorecards were distributed on biannually by e-mail or posted in a shared directory. MMC wanted a customizable platform that could be updated at any point. It deployed SAS Institute's business intelligence tools, including its Strategic Performance Management software, to create scorecards designed as dashboards that provide information compiled through the monitoring of more than 50 key performance indicators including length of stay, patient falls, patient satisfaction and physician satisfaction.
The tools have helped the hospital improve quality of care, Chingos says. Since implementing them, MMC has found fewer patient falls, and hospitalacquired infection rates have decreased as the SAS platform has enabled the hospital to correlate specific diagnoses and infections, allowing nurses and doctors to take proactive measures.
Over time, information became unreliable for decision makers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a Troy, N.Y., university and research institution, and important decisions had to be delayed due to conflicting and inaccurate reporting. University administrators and business officials couldn't come to an agreement on basic numbers and statistics—they didn't even know how many graduate students were enrolled, says Ora Fish, associate director of data warehouse services.
"It was pretty much in disarray at the cabinet level as they debated issues and wondered if they even had the right numbers," Fish says. "Having many versions of the truth and [not] being able to trust the numbers was one of our biggest issues. We had all kinds of numbers, but could never seem to get a straight answer."
Building out a data warehouse and business intelligence platform that met Rensselaer's requirements demanded significant expertise, Fish says.
Rensselaer worked with DecisionWorks Consulting to identify key information components and establish standard definitions and processes to ensure consistent reporting.
An Oracle data warehouse was created, pulling in information from various areas of the university including admissions, financial aid, finance, human resources and research. The Hyperion Performance Suite business intelligence package was integrated with the data warehouse, and about 650 users began using the platform.
The Rensselaer IT staff worked with each department to understand what kinds of processes would best meet their requirements and to build usage models around which to tailor the platform. IT offered users a training program and a question-and-answer meeting and e-mails weekly tips to those using the tools.
The admissions office now does year-over-year analyses, comparing admissions across demographic and geographic areas and checking student retention patterns. The financial aid office can review percentages of students receiving aid and the kinds of assistance they receive. All departments can use the tools to check spending projections, status of budgets and grants and other financial specifics.
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