HIMSS23: Microsoft, Wolters Kluwer collaborate on 'big picture insights' analytics offering for hospitals

CHICAGO—Early on during the COVID-19 pandemic, information services company Wolters Kluwer Health teamed up with Microsoft to tap into its analytics and cloud technologies to predict the next outbreak.

Wolters Kluwer leveraged its vast data set based on its 2 million physician users to look at search teams, and that collaboration enabled health systems to predict COVID outbreaks two to three weeks in advance, according to Julie Frey, director of product strategy at Wolters Kluwer Health.

The two companies decided to take that collaboration further to identify other use cases to harness Wolters Kluwer's real-time clinical search data to provide clinicians and health system executives with critical insights.

Wolters Kluwer developed UpToDate, an evidence-based clinical decision support resource at the point of care.

Working with Microsoft, the company is using its UpToDate data to build out an advanced analytics platform designed to deliver real-time insights that will support health systems in identifying and addressing emerging trends and knowledge gaps in clinical settings. The goal is to support strategic improvements in clinical program management, education initiatives and outbreak monitoring, according to Frey and Amy Berks, director of population health, U.S. health and public sector at Microsoft, who spoke with Fierce Healthcare this week.

Microsoft and Wolters Kluwer provided a sneak peek of the new analytics solution during the HIMSS 2023 conference.

Frey stressed that the new insights offering is not meant to replace an analytics platform. "We're not looking to become an analytics platform. What we’re doing is providing a unique data set, or what Amy [Berks] calls, triangulation. So as you optimize and focus and look at data sources, you can then add this to that story, and through that triangulation, you get to impact and you get to insights," she said.

UpToDate is used on smartphones, browsers and within electronic health record systems by over 2 million clinicians and 44,000 institutions across more than 190 countries. It is updated continuously and used heavily with users accessing over 54 million topics per month across 25 specialties.

"Clinicians are asking us dozen of questions every minute, and we have created a rich, proprietary data set that’s helping us understand what is top of mind for physicians, where do they have unanswered questions. The goal of our product is to help them to make the best decisions," Frey said.

Health systems and hospitals can use these data to gain provider behavioral insights to help inform operational decisions around education and training programs, cost efficiency initiatives and chronic disease management, she noted.

"Where Microsoft comes in is that we set the foundation for the technical architecture that is necessary for providing the infrastructure to surface data at the point of care, at the point of decision making a population health level," Berks said. "How can we use informed insights to elevate the standard of care, better educate and train our clinicians on the front lines to fill in gaps when necessary and course correct on interventions that we need to do."

Frey said the project is in "alpha" stage this year, with several large health system partners testing it out. "We're working through the feature functionality and if that all goes well, my ambition is to reach general availability next year," Frey noted.

Berks and Frey shared some initial use cases for the insights engine tool. Education and training is one key area. 

"Wolters Kluwer is leaning into what customers told us around where they see value in the capability we’re building. One of the biggest ones is around the need to better inform education programs," Frey said. "As you think about it, many health systems are running knowledge and education programs largely blind, and they might survey folks around what they want to learn more about but it's limited. Teams are putting money and effort to improve knowledge and education. We have those insights into what is a clinician thinking and what is a clinician unsure about, and we can look at that at the role level, specialty level and department level, so we can have targeted interventions."

Insights generated from the data and analytics solution also can help inform efforts to rein in healthcare costs. "One of the biggest areas of cost is drug costs and that's one of the first ones health systems can impact. We can identify drug searches and identify what expensive drugs clinicians are looking at and then run a specific program around that," Frey noted.

For chronic condition management programs, health systems can leverage "big picture insights" to improve care for these patients, Frey and Berks said.

"They can use data and analytics to reimagine the roles of the care team and look at what can they take off the MDs and use the rest of care teams for. They are often operating blind. They're told to improve readmission rates and other key metrics but not how or why. These insights give them perspective to help them do that," Frey noted.

Moving forward, the two companies will work on making the insights more predictive, the executives said.