Why hospital leaders need business intelligence

Recently I gave a keynote at the Healthcare Business Intelligence Summit in Minneapolis. I had a basic knowledge of business intelligence programs and data warehousing systems, and I had first-hand knowledge about how most hospital leaders do not appreciate how business intelligence can help them move to sophisticated data reporting and analytic systems. Kent Bottles

Meeting the other Healthcare Business Intelligence Summit faculty at a pre-conference dinner and listening to some of the other presentations improved my appreciation for the importance of hospitals embracing this movement.

On my flight back from Minneapolis to Philadelphia, I read "Healthcare Business Intelligence: A Guide to Empowering Successful Data Reporting and Analytics" by Laura B. Madsen, M.S., founder of the Hsummit. Her book is a must read for any hospital leader who wants to implement an enterprise business intelligence project from pre-concept to execution to decrease per-capita cost of care and increase quality.


Madsen defines business intelligence as "the integration of data from disparate source systems to optimize business usage and understanding through a user-friendly interface."

One of the best things about Madsen's approach is her appreciation for the importance of culture and leadership in successfully adopting a comprehensive business intelligence program. As someone who has at times had difficulty convincing hospital system C-suites to invest in such a program, I now have a better tool box. I am most anxious to use Madsen's readiness-to-change assessment tool that is discussed in chapter seven. The assessment is available at results in a maturity stage score. She gives an insightful explanation of how to proceed depending on whether your organization is at stage 1, 2 or 3 of maturity.

The appendices A through E offer practical advice on data governance policies and procedures, business intelligence reporting tools, business intelligence road maps, business intelligence marketing plans, and business intelligence status reports.

Every page of this book reflects the fact that the author for more than a decade has been on the frontlines actually working with healthcare organizations to design, implement and maintain business intelligence programs and data warehousing systems. This is not a book written by an academic or a theoretician; it is a book written by a practitioner who has gotten her hands dirty with the messy real world challenges of day-to-day hospital operations.

The practicality of Madsen's approach is reflected in her list of "four things you absolutely should not, under any circumstances do," which includes:

  • Never make a consultant the leader of your business intelligence program.
  • Don't ignore or forget about you own staff.
  • Don't believe the vendors who promise you can install and plug in your data and be up and running in a few days. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
  • Never de-emphasize the importance of a good data model.

I cannot agree more with Madsen's hallmarks of a good business intelligence program:

  • Have good leaders who are employees.
  • Have solid executive sponsorship.
  • Invest in the right tools and people to get the job done.
  • Make a commitment to data governance.
  • Focus on all aspects of delivering business intelligence.
  • Maintain excellent communication out to the business community during any build cycle.

I've already marked up my new copy of "Healthcare Business Intelligence" with underlining and comments written in the margins. I am sure it will become dog-eared as I consult it often during my work teaching graduate classes at The Thomas Jefferson School of Population Health, developing hospital programs with PYA Analytics, and consulting with hospital systems with Pershing Yoakley & Associates on how to respond to healthcare and payment reform.

Kent Bottles, M.D, is a lecturer at the Thomas Jefferson University School of Population Health and chief medical officer of PYA Analytics.