Improving Surgical Outcomes with Analytics Enabled Consulting

The Big Data era has ushered in a new wave of technology to help healthcare systems stabilize costs and drive better patient outcomes. The complexity of healthcare systems requires a combination of knowledge, technology and strategy to significantly impact costs and outcomes – especially in perioperative departments, which are a major cost driver for hospitals.


Healthcare systems often rely on a combination of traditional healthcare consulting and emerging technology and analytics platforms — with varying degrees of measurable improvements — as the two approaches sometimes have trouble integrating with each other.


A different approach to healthcare consulting, which combines the two, has emerged: “analytics enabled consulting.” To get a better understanding of how this consulting approach is improving surgical outcomes, let’s explore both traditional consulting and analytics solutions alone.


Traditional Healthcare Consulting

 The traditional approach to healthcare consulting involves a team of professional consultants, from a variety of backgrounds, engaging with hospital administrators and staff to observe perioperative workflows and processes, review documentation and reports, and look for opportunities for improvement. The consulting team will report their findings and make recommendations based on their experience and industry best practices however, they may lack the clinical expertise to identify realistic opportunities and the analytics tools to provide accurate data in a transparent and meaningful way.

Making real, lasting change can take years — and must be closely managed. Often, healthcare systems are simply too busy to successfully implement changes based on consultant recommendations alone.  If they can implement initial changes with the help of a consulting team, they may struggle with sustaining those changes without an analytics tool to provide frequent feedback on performance.


Emerging Technology

Healthcare systems are increasingly relying on technology platforms for improving efficiency, reducing costs and improving surgical outcomes. Often sold as a monthly subscription, these platforms can help gather and parse data, organize data into charts and graphs, and provide a picture of where opportunities lie to enhance operational efficiencies or reduce cost. Utilization of analytics technologies helps hospitals and healthcare systems access and visualize enormous amounts of data, but technology itself is a tool, not a solution. It’s what’s done with the data that counts, which requires human ingenuity and a solid strategy.


A Better Approach: Analytics Enabled Consulting

Empiric Health combines proprietary analytics with consulting by experienced perioperative nurses to offer healthcare systems a proven method for reducing costs and improving patient outcomes. This method uses high-quality data to inform the strategy rather than relying solely on best practices or prior industry experience.

Developed over a four-year period at Intermountain Healthcare, Empiric’s approach combines the best of both the consulting and the technology approach to create a system for improving surgical outcomes and reducing unwarranted clinical variation across physicians and hospitals.


The cornerstone of the Empiric Health approach is our proprietary analytics tool that uniquely groups data into “cohorts” — data sets that compare surgical procedures in a more “apples-to-apples” manner than most existing systems.


Prior to the creation of cohorts, healthcare systems relied on procedure codes (e.g., DRGs, CPT, ICD10) to compare cost, outcome and quality data.  Using procedure codes alone isn’t enough to analyze and compare truly clinically similar surgical cases.  For instance, not all spinal surgeries are considered equal, and should factor in variables like the health of the patient, the number of levels of the spine treated, and complications that aren’t accounted for in established procedure code designations, such as a pre-existing infection or fracture. By contrast, Empiric’s cohort methodology splits up broad procedure categories into specific sub-categories- enabling surgeons and administrators to compare like cases with one another and draw meaningful and actionable insights from the data.


The effort required to create these cohorts was far beyond a simple application of technology. The development of cohorts took thousands of hours of labor and effort by a large staff of technology experts, experienced clinical professionals and significant input from the surgeons themselves.  Today, there are more than 340 cohorts used for improving surgical outcomes, and the number continues to grow. Using machine learning and artificial intelligence technology, Empiric is able to review and ingest thousands of clinical data elements to develop new cohorts.  Like other technology platforms, success doesn’t begin and end with the data. Empiric clinical consultants meet regularly with surgeons to review the data, draw meaningful conclusions, and discuss opportunities for improvement.  And it goes far beyond a couple of meetings. Empiric Health team members partner with the clinical team–as well as operations, supply chain, and finance—to not only offer suggestions, but to help usher in culture change that results in a strategy of continuous improvement.


Empiric Health’s combination of analytics, strategy, long-term engagement and uniquely grouped cohort data represents a true breakthrough in performance improvement, leading to lower costs and most importantly, better patient outcomes.


To learn more about how Empiric can help your hospital or healthcare system improve surgical outcomes and lower costs by reducing unnecessary clinical variation, ask about our complimentary opportunity analysis.