With 2,300 employees, Hospital de Faro serves half a million citizens in Faro, Portugal. Relying on multiple disparate systems, hospital employees lacked holistic insight into patient and operational data. To solve this, the hospital opted to undergo a far-reaching business intelligence (BI) initiative and teamed with Microsoft Services to drive such an effort forward. Since establishing the new BI solution, the hospital has seen considerable improvements, enabling it to exceed patient care targets, understand and respond to issues, and transform the role of IT from that of support to that of a strategic resource.
||The need is great but resources are limited, so gaining efficiencies in the healthcare sector is not necessarily about spending less but spending smarter. By working with Microsoft Services, we felt we could accomplish the project much more effectively and with minimal risk.
||Dr. Francisco Serra, CEO, Hospital de Faro
Serving half a million Portuguese citizens, Hospital de Faro is the central hospital for the Algarve region in southern Portugal. The hospital has 2,300 employees and maintains a small IT department of 16 individuals tasked with managing core infrastructure and nearly 50 software applications that support care management and hospital administration.
With such a complex environment, establishing a comprehensive view into patient and operational data had, in the past, proven cumbersome, requiring hospital staff to manually aggregate data from multiple sources. As Dr. Francisco Serra, CEO of Hospital de Faro, recalls, “We were essentially producing electronic records of the same information we already had on paper without performing any deeper or more meaningful analysis.”
Serra goes on to note that, although management staff understood they could increase the number of patients the hospital treated, the lack of insight into patient care trends and physicians’ schedules complicated work schedule optimization efforts. In addition, management staff across the hospital felt that an inordinate number of patient visits were canceled and never followed up on, but they simply lacked the empirical evidence to prove and then remedy the issue to recover considerable lost or otherwise missed revenue.
Attracted to the prospect of implementing a hospitalwide business intelligence (BI) solution, Serra considered turning to a technology partner to help drive such a high-profile initiative forward. Says Serra, “To assure the other members of the administration that it was possible to complete a project like this with a warranty of success, I had to be convinced that the technology partner we chose was up to the challenge.”Solution
To execute on the complex initiative of establishing a hospitalwide BI solution, Serra called on the expertise of Microsoft Services. “The need is great but resources are limited, so gaining efficiencies in the healthcare sector is not necessarily about spending less but spending smarter,” says Serra. “By working with Microsoft Services, we felt we could accomplish the project much more effectively and with minimal risk.”
Before executing on the Microsoft BI solution, Serra first worked with Microsoft Services to establish the underlying infrastructure, including the rollout of the server operating system, IT administration and monitoring tools, security, companywide messaging and email, document management, and intranet and extranet portals.
To support the BI system, Serra then worked with Microsoft Services to establish a data warehouse that draws on once-disparate data sources ranging from Oracle to Paradox. The two teams then devised a plan to build the new BI solution around the concept of balanced scorecards. This approach ties nonfinancial performance measures, such as individual hospital services and patient information, to traditional financial metrics to give employees in key roles a more comprehensive and actionable view into hospital performance through intranet-based dashboards. Because of this, Hospital de Faro has experienced considerable improvements in work schedule optimization. “Before the BI system was in place, physicians would choose how they distributed their workweek across activities, such as the emergency room, patient consultations, and research,” says Serra. “Now, we can distribute their workweek according to patient load and be more efficient in our operations and in the services that we provide.”
The benefits of the scorecards extended to those employees in charge of managing individual hospital service lines as well. By using the scorecards, service line managers can look at patient trends and costs and determine how to best allocate hospital resources, such as physicians. “With all the information in one place, we can make objective decisions based on factual, real-time data,” says Serra. “As a result, we can address issues as they arise, enabling us to make decisions that have an immediate impact on the efficiency of the hospital and the satisfaction of our patients.”
The hospital is also currently in the process of rolling out a unified communications (UC) solution. With UC, the hospital aims to enable hospital staff to work more closely together through messaging, video conferencing, and voice-over-IP telephony. In future work, the UC solution will integrate with the BI system and the hospital’s intranet platform, enabling employees to quickly find those individuals responsible for certain aspects of the hospital. The hospital also aims to take advantage of UC to develop virtual communities, which will help improve communication between patients and their physicians.
To facilitate ongoing IT improvements across both infrastructure and operations, the hospital put a Microsoft Services Premier Support contract in place. Although it is focused on helping the IT team eliminate the chance for downtime in the first place, Premier Support also provides the reassurance of a prioritized escalation channel into Microsoft if any issues arise. “Premier Support is helping us grow the skills of our team so that we can better support our infrastructure,” says Serra. “Now, our team does most of the maintenance, and the incidents we open with Microsoft are few in number.”Benefits
With its new IT infrastructure in place, Hospital de Faro has seen considerable results. “Because we are an organization with minimal IT resources, the expertise that Microsoft Services provided has helped us tremendously in getting results,” enthuses Serra. “We were able to do many projects in a short period of time and with great success.
Serra goes on to note that the IT improvements have had a top-line impact as well. “We were able to increase revenue by 23 percent, of which almost one-third is attributable to the improvements we made in IT,” he says.Exceed Patient Care Targets
By taking advantage of BI to optimize work schedules in line with patient demand, Hospital de Faro has been able to treat more patients than ever before. Says Serra, “In the last year, we were able to surpass our target for ambulatory surgeries by 16 percent, thanks in large part to the efficiencies we drove by using the new IT environment.” Understand and Respond to Issues
In the past, Hospital de Faro understood that when patients canceled appointments for personal reasons, revenue was lost, and the hospital never understood where these issues were happening, let alone how to respond and overcome them. Now, things are different. “We discovered that we were missing more than 16,000 appointments per year,” says Serra. “By optimizing our controls and making staff responsible for following up on missed appointments, we made 10,000 of those 16,000 appointments happen in the first year. Transform IT into a Strategic Resource
Working closely with Microsoft Services has also had a profound impact on the capabilities of the hospital’s IT organization. Says Serra, “Thanks to the knowledge we have gained, we are much more motivated and proud of what we are doing as an IT department. Rather than coming to IT to solve issues, people are now coming to IT to discuss the next solutions that we should implement in the future.”
Adds Serra, “We have ultimately developed an attitude of service toward the clinical departments. Because we can be more efficient, we feel that patients may have a higher level of satisfaction and our hospital may be much better respected in the community, which in turn, contributes greatly to the satisfaction of our own employees.”