In an age in which data is generated at faster rates than ever before, the struggle to streamline and interpret the plethora of available information has been the core driver for many business analytics companies. The challenge is arguably more pressing in an environment as complex as a hospital, where data is constantly gathered at every bedside and where decisions often differentiate between life and death. While healthcare institutions have historically attempted to keep track of best practices, it remains difficult for high-level administrators to consider the holistic picture and make data-driven decisions. Information Builders, a leader in business analytics, has turned its attention to this data-management challenge in healthcare. Medgadget was invited to attend their annual Summit conference to learn about their work in this industry, and we had a chance to sit down with their Chief Marketing Officer, Michael Corcoran.
Mohammad Saleh, Medgadget: Can you tell us a bit about your role with Information Builders and Summit 2017?
Michael Corcoran, Information Builders: I’ve run marketing for the company twice in my career. I was in product management, in professional services, and in different areas of company sales. So, my first round with Information Builders was in marketing, and I took it back over about six years ago. Our goal is to continually upgrade the quality of this event and the level of people attending the annual summit.
It’s quite amazing to see the uses of our technologies. I just sat in on a customer session who built a dashboard to go hand-in-hand with their software platform to help people manage events and pull details about attendees from social media. There’s probably about 45 sessions given by customers at this year’s Summit, ranging from technical skills to business applications. There’s something for every level of person that attends here! We also run about 45 technical labs with very hands-on guidance to let people actually play with and use our new products. They’ll walk out of a lab saying, “I can build something with this,” which is exactly the point of the summit!
Medgadget: Tell us about the story of Information Builders venturing into healthcare.
Corcoran: We’ve been involved in the healthcare industry for decades. But our approach, historically, was to treat it like almost any other market. “We’ve got great tools and technologies, and we can custom build things with you.” We’d go out and find approaches like that, and we were successful in healthcare for many years because we can deal with all the different types of data. Even the old healthcare systems that were based on MUMPS [Massachusetts General Hospital Utility Multi-Programming System], we directly interfaced with them. Very few data solution vendors – if any – do. We’re able to pool all the data from a variety of siloed technologies’ data together. So, our solutions address a wide range of needs because we can integrate all the systems, allowing us to analyze, report on, and deliver it out to people.
What’s really changed for us is that we’re starting to understand that healthcare is a very different type of business. We’ve started to really listen to people that are trying to pin down a holistic view of the patient, the patient life-cycle, and all the touch-points happening between the physicians, facilities, and clinics. You’ve got out-patient clinics, urgent care facilities, pharmacies – these hospital networks own all of these assets now. I might be in one of those systems as “Michael Patrick Corcoran,” but over here it’s “Michael P. Corcoran,” and on there it’s “Mike Corcoran,” and so on… It’s not inaccurate – they’re all referring to me, but how do the administrators know that it’s the same person? In retail and business, it’s about pooling all that data together to maximize opportunities with those customers. In healthcare, it’s about saving lives and improving quality of care. If I don’t know that A and B are the same people, I could prescribe the wrong medication and so on. We start to see crazy things that happen in these complex networks. We were with a healthcare company that told us about a woman who came in with her daughter and says she’s got respiratory problems that need to be checked out. They respond saying “Ok, so your daughter was in here a month ago and we treated her with diabetes.” Turns out it’s her twin sister, carrying the same first name! That’s something our current system could have picked up on.
Listening to this kind of feedback, we started to focus on building a “single-view” of the patient. We built a platform called Omni-Patient (which is now called Omni-HealthData Provider Edition) that started to pool data and give us a single-view of patients. We learned from this that it’s really about a few domains that you need to master and integrate: the patient information, physician data (who often work in more than one facility), all the facility data, and the different accounting systems across locations. We’ve honed this down, but now we’ve realized that although the data is great, we have to build an insights and analytics layer on top of it.
Medgadget: So you managed to collect the health data from all these different sources, but it didn’t make much sense yet?
Corcoran: We struggled with that – we had a lot of smart folks on it, but we’re not practitioners. So what followed was a joint venture with one of our customers, St. Luke’s Hospital, where we combined their intellectual property and clinical experience with our technical expertise and support. We’re absolutely the best in the industry when it comes to data management and analytics – the deployments of our technology are the largest in the industry. But we needed to build the healthcare analytics layer. St. Luke’s had built what we call “InfoApps” for all aspects of the hospital, these applications that focus in on the specific analytical needs of particular groups in the hospital. These apps could then be rolled up into a general high-level dashboard for management and the focal point is care management. In the new Omni-HealthData Insights platform, we’ve introduced four new modules and there are upwards of another 60 that are soon becoming available. These will deal with things like marketing, financial management, bed usage, and other generics. We’ll still be figuring out which of those we’ll be going to market with, though. But care management is the current focal point.
In the generalized market for data analytics, we’ve got common competitors that we see in every industry. But in healthcare, there are some very specialized players that often hire people from the healthcare industry to build out their solutions. What’s interesting and unique about our solution is that it’s built by practitioners for practitioners – they’re using it every day! These applications have continued to evolve and improve thanks to the experiences at St. Luke’s and how they use it every day. Now when we implement these solutions for other customers, they’ll go in as “clean packages” with preconfigured and preset models and layers. It’ll allow customers to get up and running very quickly, yet we retain the ability to go in and customize their analytics. It’s an interesting approach that we’ve now started taking into other industries as well. But in healthcare, it was almost a requirement for us to do that. This joint venture between a healthcare organization and a leading software organization has given us a very unique opportunity and a new angle on the market.
Medgadget: How many customers in the healthcare sector does Information Builders serve?
Corcoran: It might be in the 50-100 customers range… but that might be a low estimate.
Medgadget: Beyond St. Luke’s Hospital, have you partnered with any others?
Corcoran: We have a lot of hospitals as customers, but the partnerships with both St. Luke’s and Guelph are unique. We’ve had success in many Canadian hospitals, especially in Ontario. We’ve gotten them to almost build a consortium where we all get together to spur innovation and tackle needs. This built an environment where they can share metrics and analytical assets. We’ve also gotten them to get involved with some of the local colleges, where we’re hooking up students with these healthcare customers. Universities have expressed interest in having their students work on real customer projects.
Medgadget: Going forward, where do you see Information Builders growing when it comes to healthcare?
Corcoran: The regulatory requirements are constantly changing, which impacts behaviors and priorities. So our technologies need to constantly adapt to those settings. I think the roadmap will strongly be influenced by the different requirements that arise over the next few years. There are other interesting opportunities that we learn about as we interact with practitioners. For example, there’s a big data opportunity in healthcare. The Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems collect vitals from patients in 15-30 minute intervals, and that’s often all they’re required to capture. But talking to clinicians, you hear things like, “Well, when a newly-approved drug hits the market, I’d like to keep track of vitals in between those gaps.” So, there’s room for more data capture, particularly with the rise in Internet-of-Things technology, as well as appropriate management and interpretation. It’s also about enriching this data. What systems can I bring together to give the collected data more meaning? We have the ability to deal with massive amounts of data from multiple sources, so that’s an area we’re investigating.
We’re also building a whole new website for the Omni-HealthData product line. Information Builders has never done that before for any of our products, but I really feel that healthcare is a really specialized market. Even the terminology changes – informatics instead of analytics.
We’ve also found in a lot of the hospitals that we really need to work on understanding the survey data generated by patients at the end of each visit. We already take unstructured data and run sentiment analysis and look at work frequency to get a general sense of what people are saying. We currently do this in a customized fashion for each of our customers, but we’re working on standardizing the system. There’s also room for some interesting data aggregation on the cloud, provided properly anonymization of patient data. It could create very valuable opportunities.