5 ways Ochsner Health System harnesses big data

Big data is "going viral" at Ochsner Health System, CIO Chris Belmont told FierceHealthIT in an exclusive interview this week about Ochsner's latest big data projects and his predictions for how hospitals will use data in the future.

Belmont says he thinks the eight-hospital system, based in New Orleans, has achieved return on investment from the data warehouse it built over the last three years.

"What's happening is [big data] is starting to go viral; the demand outpaces our ability to deliver. More people want it, and my [response] is, 'let's go get data out of the warehouse.'" Belmont said.

So what are some of the ways Ochsner is harnessing all that data? Here are five he highlighted in the interview.

  1. Identifying which doctors are struggling with EMR adoption. Ochsner is using previously unearthed physician information stored in their electronic health records system. They can tell what physicians are struggling in adopting the EMR and if they're using it enough, Belmont said.
  2. Helping doctors work more efficiently. Information stored in the EMR can also tell when a doctor has closed his or her charts, when they've reviewed messages and if they're working efficiently. "We found the people struggling, and people with bad work habits--not working, or [working] long hours. Before, we had no evidence," Belmont said.
  3. Monitoring patients after discharge. Ochsner is also moving into home health, but keeps tabs on discharged patients via their personal health data. At Ochsner's "innovation lab," they're working on a blood pressure cuff, and experimenting with commercial activity monitors for patients. They're also piloting a monitoring dashboard for patients.
  4. Responding to change with agility. "There are the obvious data, then all the little hidden data," Belmont said. "I think the organizations that embrace the analytics side will have a jump side on the rest of the changes about to hit, if you can be responsive and agile as changes hit you, those are the organizations that will be ahead of the curve."
  5. Understanding their business--and scheduling--better with operational metrics. Keeping track of no-show patients allows Ochsner to try overbooking to get as many patients in and out as possible day-to-day. "You can look at doctors like airplane pilots. They will take off whether plane is full or not. We have to make sure all the seats are full," Belmont said.

As for the future, Belmont and his organization have a sunny outlook.

"We're having so much fun…it's a blast. The results are there, so it's good. I don't see it slowing down by any means," Belmont said.

Belmont said he was confident about the promise of big data back in June at the Big Data and Healthcare Analytics Forum in Washington, D.C..

"We have the data points [to be more predictive], we just have to do a better job of getting our hands around the data and understanding it better," Belmont said in June, also asserting that big data holds the key to predictive, evidence-based medicine--which he thinks works.

To learn more:
Ochsner and Intermountain: Access to big data isn't enough
Healthcare execs: We don't want to build software
What's your strategy for big data deployment?
Big data use could save $450 billion in healthcare costs
Evidence supported decisions key to big data success