How the University of Utah is using data to slash healthcare costs

Few hospitals can say how much it costs them to care for each patient admitted, but the University of Utah is working to change that, according to an article from Kaiser Health News.

"To think that healthcare is this 'ginormous' business that doesn't understand costs is mind-blowing," Vivian Lee, senior vice president for health sciences at the four-hospital system, said in the article. 

At the university, Lee and professionals--from departments including information technology, the data warehouse and the medical group--created a tool to pull data from a variety of departments. The program can track costs for all of a hospital's patients, and the information then can be shared among doctors and nurses to create ways to lessen costs, according to KHN.

As healthcare spending increases, with experts predicting medical inflation across the U.S. to rise to 6.8 percent in 2015, hospitals will have to find ways to cut costs to fight the spending growth. Data analysis could be one direction to take to reduce costs.

The data tool was also used to measure quality of care, and can track whether patients were admitted to the orthopedic surgery wing and where nurses and other staff are experienced in their after-care. The data found that patients performed better when starting physical therapy the same day as their surgery.

Tracking of cost data can also lead to more transparency, for which many states and organizations have been pushing. In South Florida, for instance, a union for public employees is demanding more cost data from hospitals, physicians and health plans.

McKinsey & Company predicted in spring 2013 that big data use could save $450 billion in healthcare costs over the next decade.

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article