In order to improve quality, safety and performance, Austin Health needed an effective way of providing hospital staff with highly detailed, accurate and up-to-date information on everything from surgery wait lists, occupancy and treatment delays to finance and so on. Rather than users having to obtain this information from multiple sources, they wanted to bring it together in one screen giving staff a consolidated view of how individual departments, wards and the hospital as a whole was performing. To achieve this, Austin Health implemented a business intelligence (BI) solution based on Microsoft® SQL Server®.
With their new system in place staff can see relevant, role-related data in a single consolidated view. They can also obtain details showing performance on a monthly, weekly, daily or even hourly basis. With timely, clear insights, staff are able to target, analyse and respond to issues more quickly and accurately. As a result, they have been able to improve or maintain their performance against patient care targets in the face of significant pressure from increases in demand.
Austin Health has 900 beds and treats around 90,000 inpatients and 155,000 outpatients each year. Over the last three years inpatient treatments have grown by 10 percent and this put significant pressure on the health service to increase efficiency to cope with this demand. In this environment, managing the rapidly increasing amounts of complex data sets, including patient and operational data, was becoming a serious challenge.
||The Hospital board was particularly delighted to be able to see this level of information presented in a way that allows a focus on whether the actual business results are meeting our stated goals and objectives. This is very helpful in driving accountability.
Executive Director Strategy, Quality & Service Redesign
With more than ten years of data stored in their database – and with exponential data growth foreseen to continue – it was difficult for clinicians and staff to obtain and make effective use of the data they needed to do their jobs. The systems were not connected so, in order to obtain accurate reporting, staff had to combine data from disparate systems and combine it using Microsoft® Office Excel® Pivot Tables – a process, which was time-consuming and retrospective.
Fiona Webster, Executive Director, Strategy, Quality and Service Redesign, Austin Health, explains. “We had a clear vision of what we wanted to achieve: real-time, role-relevant reporting that would enable staff – from managers to clinicians – to obtain a complete and highly detailed snapshot of how they were performing and be able to track their performance over time and against Key Performance Indicators. We wanted staff to be able to see the information they needed at a glance, with clear graphs and charts to make it easy to comprehend.
“I approached Microsoft with our requirement and they introduced us to the Business Intelligence (BI) capabilities of Microsoft® SharePoint® Server, a product that we were already licensed to use under our hospital Enterprise Agreement.”
Peter Davey, Manager, Clinical Information, Analysis and Reporting at Austin Health, explains. “We were impressed by the data integration and workflow application capabilities of SQL Server. We could see that it would enable us to analyse the huge quantities of data we create on a daily basis and control how that data was distributed. Plus it provided self-service BI tools for staff, so that they could quickly obtain the reports and information they needed, without requiring help from our department.”
Microsoft Certified partner DWS was chosen to create the new BI solution, on account of their proven expertise and experience in healthcare and professional understanding of Microsoft technologies.
In conjunction with DWS, Austin Health upgraded their two 64-bit Dell servers to Microsoft SQL Server. One of the servers is a development, test and disaster recovery platform, which is located at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital site. The production server is located at the Austin Hospital site. Although Austin Health has a number of virtual servers configured on each server, they started by running all the components for their BI System on a single virtual server. However, they do plan to distribute the components over two servers. Data is stored on their hospital-grade Storage Area Network (SAN).
The information team used Microsoft SQL Server to securely connect disparate data residing in their different departmental systems, from accounts to patient management. Once the systems were connected, they were able to aggregate and publish specified datasets providing hospital staff with a single consolidated view of relevant, role-related information with graphs, charts and performance target indicators to help them understand it quickly and easily. This information was made available through a secure online Web portal so that staff could easily access it throughout the hospital.
There has been an extremely positive response to the new BI solution from both the staff and the Board at Austin Health. Staff can now share analysis and reports directly on the intranet, with data feeds that regularly update information. Peter Davey comments: “The Analysis Services database has proven itself capable of storing large volumes of very complex data whilst continuing to return excellent query response times. Microsoft® Performance Point®, Reporting Services and Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Excel Services are providing effective reporting solutions for different target user groups. And Microsoft SharePoint allows us to tie these components together to deliver an integrated information system to our staff, which they can access online from any connected device.”
Complete information at a glance
Scorecards are proving invaluable to the staff at Austin Health. For the first time, they can view finance and Human Resources data in relation to clinical data. They can also delve into data and view target scorecards and KPIs, as well as charts related to the data, giving them the full picture. Fiona Webster comments: “Integrated analytics help clinicians move quickly from monitoring information to analysing it, as well as sharing it throughout the organisation, when appropriate.
“The Hospital board was particularly delighted to be able to see this level of information presented in a way that allows a focus on whether the actual business results are meeting our stated goals and objectives. This is very helpful in driving accountability.”
Rapid, easy access to the right data
The Scorecard and reporting tools address two challenges at Austin Health: providing a self-service BI model that makes data easily available to staff and reducing the time that the Information Unit has to spend responding to requests for data analysis. Staff can now import and analyse vast quantities of data from disparate sources. Peter Davey adds: “They can personalise the information, slice and dice the data, and then produce their own reports without having to come to our department for help.
“We’re now in the process of upgrading SQL Server because we’re eager to use Microsoft® PowerPivot for Excel and PowerPivot for SharePoint. This will provide our information workers with analytical capabilities right on their desktop that they previously only dreamt of.”
The new system enables Austin Health management to make more informed decisions on how to better manage the delivery of healthcare.
Peter Davey comments: “Previously we reported our performance on a monthly basis but Performance Reporting System (PRS) has now made it feasible for us to monitor our progress against targets on a daily basis and this allows us to be much more pro-active. This would not be possible without the cube database, which provides quicker access to a broader range of data and allows us to more closely integrate actual and target data.”
Greater accessibility of data
“The Microsoft SharePoint portal provides our staff with a vastly improved interface for accessing the information they need via a single click on our intranet home page. From this central point they can access dashboards, reporting services reports and pivot tables via Excel Services,” says Davey. “It’s also much easier to secure confidential data such as HR or Finance and because it’s integrated with Microsoft® Active Directory® staff don’t need a separate log-in ID to access the PRS.”
Being able to look closely at everything from database configurations to individual transactions – such as who is viewing particular medical records or which targets are not being met – enables Austin Health management to make more informed decisions on how to better manage the delivery of healthcare.
Peter Davey remarks: “We can monitor targets daily now. On any given day we can see how we are performing against targets and report back to management and the Department of Health. While we could do this before, it is much easier with the cube database, which provides quicker access to a broader range of data.”
Austin Health’s performance is measured by the Victorian Department of Health against a range of KPIs set out in an agreed Statement of Priorities. “Feedback on our performance from the Department is not timely enough to be useful as a management tool so we have to rely on our internal reporting. The Microsoft solution meets this need and has proven to be reliable, timely and accurate.”
From the time the decision was made to overhaul the old systems, it took just ten months to roll out the new Microsoft-based BI solution. Peter Davey comments: “Considering the sophistication of the BI system that we have, we were very impressed with the rapid deployment time, which included researching and choosing the right vendor, designing the solution, installing the hardware, building and testing.”
From a technical perspective, information unit staff also appreciate the fast and flexible data warehousing tool that they can use for data extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL). Microsoft SQL Server also enables them to automate maintenance of their databases with an easy update to multidimensional cube data when they need it. Peter Davey adds: “We are also leveraging enterprise functions like advanced data auditing to assist with compliance, transparent data encryption to protect confidential health data, and policy-based management features to ensure that best practice work processes were followed by all.”
Microsoft Business Intelligence
Microsoft Business Intelligence is delivered through tight integration between Microsoft® SQL Server®, Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server and Microsoft® Office. Together this suite of programs provides a business intelligence platform, a delivery platform and the tools and performance management applications needed to deliver the right information to the right people to support decision-making across healthcare organisations.