Hospitals turn to data analytics to enable 'hot spotting'

Data analytics tools are enabling hospitals nationwide to cut costs by pinpointing which patients are utilizing the most resources, according to an article published this week in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The trend--dubbed "hot spotting"--involves hospitals sorting information on their patient populations, which then can be used to create action plans to preemptively treat patients referred to as "super users;" those who find themselves constantly in and out facilities.

For instance, to propel its hot spotting efforts, the Chronicle reported, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in and Berkeley and Oakland, Calif., recently paid $400,000 for new software that helps it to easily identify usage patterns. From there, resources have been strategically deployed to the surrounding community with an eye on preventing patient readmissions.

"Right now, laying there in hospitals all over San Francisco and every hospital in the region are people who've been there over and over and cost the system huge amounts of money," said Jeffrey Brenner, a family doctor who helped launch the Camden (N.J.) Coalition of Healthcare Providers, which famously also employs the practice of hot spotting. Taking just one of those patients out of the equation--and keeping them out--he said, could lead to "huge … savings."

While such savings aren't clear as of yet at Alta Bates Summit, San Francisco General Hospital has seen a 63 percent reduction in hospital days, according to the article, as well as a 27 percent drop in emergency visits since starting its program two years ago.

According to the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services, Medicaid super-user statistics are as follows:

  • 5 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries account for 54 percent of the program's total expenditures
  • 1 percent account for 25 percent of the program's total expenditures
  • 83 percent of the top 1 percent of users has at least three chronic conditions
  • More than 60 percent of the top 1 percent has five or more chronic conditions

The Camden Coalition's Camden Health Explorer--a project that involves the creation of an interactive dashboard with real-time healthcare enrollment, cost and outcomes metrics--recently was named as one of seven winners of the Knight News Challenge: Health, for which the winners split $2.2 million in prize money.

To learn more:
- read the San Francisco Chronicle article

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