Sentara uses dashboard to drive improvement with EHR data

What does a healthcare system with seven hospitals on an electronic health record and an eighth about to go online do with all that data? In the case of Sentara Health System in Norfolk, Va., they analyze it, put the results on a dashboard that is always current, and use it to change how care is delivered.

The results have been impressive. Although the 10 year investment projected for Sentara's EHR project is $273 million, and it burned through $4 million a month at the height of implementation, the use of the Epic EHR produced $41 million in "new money" in 2010, as the result of savings and increased efficiency. That was significantly more than Sentara had expected, said Bert Reese, CIO and senior vice president of Sentara, at a HIMSS presentation on Sunday.

Among the direct reasons for the return on investment: reduced length of stay, lower medical error rates, an increase in outpatient procedures, reduced transcription and medical supply expenses, less overtime for nurses, and a lower amount of time required to do medication reconciliation, according to Reese. This was all the result of clinical re-engineering of 18 core processes that he summarized as "communications, hunting and gathering [records], and handoffs." 

But Sentara wouldn't have been able to achieve this, Reese emphasized, without doing its own data analysis and plugging the information into dashboards that are used to measure and manage every aspect of Sentara's operations.

The use of this tool has helped improve clinical care, including the system's performance on the CMS core measures, Reese said. During the H1N1 epidemic, he added, Sentara's medical leaders agreed on a protocol for diagnosing the flu strain that immediately was sent to all front-line physicians via Sentara's EHR. With more accurate diagnostic data coming into the system, managers were able to drill down and see where H1N1 was spreading and make sure that its limited supplies of vaccine got to the most affected areas.

Reese added that Sentara--which HIMSS Analytics will recognize as a stage 7 organization this week--has gotten strong physician buy-in to its CPOE system. Currently, 87 percent of the staff uses CPOE, he said.

To learn more:
- read the story in Health Data Management
- see the announcement about Sentara’s stage 7 award 

Related stories:
Improved employee health saves Sentara $3.4 million
Financial stability impacts integrated healthcare networks

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