Health Catalyst recently launched Health Catalyst® Touchstone™, a breakthrough analytics application featuring next-generation benchmarking and prioritization capabilities powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) to supercharge healthcare improvement initiatives.
A survey of 100 hospital and health system executives conducted this month by Health Catalyst confirmed that benchmarking is as important as regulatory requirements in determining organizational improvement priorities. Survey respondents also highlighted the importance of integrating benchmarks with analytics to correct deficiencies in current approaches to benchmarking.
For most healthcare organizations, the process of selecting opportunities for performance improvement is under-informed by data. A key problem is that benchmarking data, used to compare an organization’s processes to those of top-performing organizations nationwide, is notoriously difficult to explore. Users must sift through hundreds of benchmarks to uncover opportunities for improvement, yet lack visibility into where they are performing well and the causes of underperformance. Moreover, most benchmarks address only inpatient performance, ignoring the comparative data from care settings outside the hospital that is essential to population health management.
Touchstone not only resolves these problems but also expands the definition of benchmarking to include prioritized improvement recommendations.
Developed in partnership with some of the nation’s most prestigious health systems, and leveraging Health Catalyst’s proven ability to manage trillions of data points, Touchstone proactively recommends the top improvement opportunities from across the full continuum of care. Its intelligent user experience makes it simple for even non-analysts to drill into opportunities to discover the specific causes of underperformance. That democratization of benchmarking to front-line healthcare workers, along with built-in AI-powered risk adjustment models, enables Touchstone to significantly accelerate improvement efforts, delivering better performance and competitive advantage.
“Health Catalyst Touchstone is a breakthrough that we’re confident will significantly advance our outcomes improvement efforts,” said David Wild, MD, Vice President of Lean Promotion at the University of Kansas Hospital, which helped to develop and test Touchstone. “We struggle with other benchmarking tools that are very comprehensive but don’t point you in the direction of improvement. With Touchstone we’re able to get to the ‘why’ not just the ‘what’ and to get there in real-time without hours of manual work. It’s faster, easier access to data to improve decisions, so we want to put in the hands of our entire leadership team.”
Lara F. Terry, MD, MPH, Medical Director of Clinical Analytics for Partners HealthCare’s Center for Population Health, which also contributed to Touchstone’s development, added, “Benchmarks are key to ongoing performance improvement. We decided to partner with Health Catalyst on Touchstone so that we could compare our risk adjusted performance to similar healthcare systems as well as national benchmarks. Touchstone Recommendation Engine automates the process of finding and prioritizing the opportunities where we can make the biggest impact.”
Hundreds of Billions of Patient Facts
The scale of the data available for analysis and benchmarking by Touchstone reaches into the hundreds of billions. In making its recommendations, Touchstone is able to review over 300 billion patient facts generated by more than 600 million patient visits, including 125 million distinct patients.
“Healthcare organizations are laser focused on making sustainable improvements in clinical, financial, and operational outcomes. But no organization has unlimited resources, nor unlimited data at their fingertips, so knowing where to focus can often feel like a shot in the dark,” said Dan Burton, CEO of Health Catalyst. “The critical starting point for making improvements is identifying and prioritizing the biggest opportunities for improvement, knowing where you are performing well, and understanding the causes of under-performance so they can be fixed.”
Old approaches to improvement identification and benchmarking miss the mark
Current benchmarking tools are built on antiquated technologies and are primarily focused on performance monitoring rather than recommending and driving sustained improvements. Unable to drill into data to reveal the cause of benchmark failures, current tools cannot tell organizations how to make improvements. Their high cost, rudimentary user interfaces, and limited use by a small number of professionals hampers their ability to democratize data and accelerate improvements.
Moreover, current benchmarking tools provide either inpatient or ambulatory benchmarks, but rarely both. As a result, it is difficult to monitor performance across the continuum of care, making population health management less effective.
Touchstone resolves these and other problems for healthcare leaders by combing through data from electronic health records, claims, cost-accounting datasets, operations, and external benchmarks to provide:
- Risk-adjusted benchmarking—reveals an organization’s performance data across the continuum of care and in context, at the point of decision-making via an intuitive user interface
- Intelligent direction— using AI and Elasticsearch, an in-memory NoSQL database capable of querying billions of records in less than 1 second, Touchstone guides users to the data and analyses of greatest relevance to their work and to the organization’s goals. The AI accounts for variation in care, external benchmarks, trending analysis, and outlier detection to recommend how improvements can be made.
- Ranked list of improvement opportunities—helps users prioritize initiatives based on projected clinical, financial, and operational improvements and associated dollar value
- Detailed analytics—provides dynamic data exploration, real-time filtering, and drill-down to help users explore the factors driving performance issues
- Democratized benchmarking—makes benchmarking available to as many people as the organization wants, speeding the sharing of insights leading to improvements
“Traditional products have encouraged benchmarking to mediocrity, not excellence. If the best-performing organization in the country is still only achieving mediocre clinical and financial results, today’s benchmarking products propagate that mediocrity,” said Dale Sanders, President of Technology for Health Catalyst. “We populate Touchstone based upon very granular data contained in the Health Catalyst Data Operating System. The technology behind Touchstone is the most current in the world. We borrowed AI and software technologies from great companies like Amazon and Netflix so that the end users of Touchstone see, not just comparative benchmarks, but also recommendations from our machine learning and AI algorithms to improve their performance.”
Inpatient and Population Health Modules
Touchstone is currently available in two modules addressing the most pressing clinical, operational, and financial improvement needs of health systems.
Touchstone’s Inpatient Module discovers areas of excellence within an organization compared to national benchmarks; and identifies inpatient performance opportunities against risk-adjusted benchmarks for metrics such as mortality, length of stay (LOS), readmissions, and variable direct costs (supplies, labor, drug, etc.). The Inpatient Module highlights care processes that have both high variation in cost and poor outcomes as areas that offer the greatest opportunity for improvement.
Touchstone’s Population Health Module enables organizational performance against risk-adjusted benchmarks for metrics such as cost (per-member-per-month), utilization, morality, LOS, and readmission. Using the Population Health Module, organizations can gain insights into its highest-performing primary care physicians in a network, populations based on chronic conditions and for whom care can be improved, and compares its health plan’s performance to similar plans across a specific region and the nation.
Common Headaches Relieved
The state-of-the-art outcomes improvement and benchmarking capabilities of Touchstone have the power to solve extremely common problems for healthcare leaders across the C-Suite and at the department level.
Population Health Module:
- A population health analyst wants to understand how to improve the ACO’s performance. Touchstone recommends an opportunity to reduce inpatient utilization in the diabetic population attributed to the organization’s Medicare MSSP contract. After drilling into the application’s “explore” tab, the analyst discovers that high inpatient utilization is being driven by patients attributed to five primary care providers who have visit utilization rates 80 percent lower than the risk-adjusted benchmark. The analyst recommends scheduling the physicians’ patients for wellness visits.
- A health plan analyst looking for opportunities to improve benefit design is directed by Touchstone to an orthopedics doctor who performs knee replacements that are 20 percent less expensive than the benchmark, with a readmission rate that is 15 percent lower. The following year, the plan augments its benefit design to drive more volume to the high-performing doctor.
- A program manager in a hospital’s surgical department uses Touchstone to look for opportunities to lower costs and improve outcomes. Touchstone recommends an opportunity to improve the mortality rate for CABG procedures, currently running 90 percent higher than the risk-adjusted benchmark would expect. Drilling into the data, the manager finds that three physicians’ cases are driving the majority of the high mortality rates and variable direct cost of supplies is correlated with these higher-than-expected mortality rates. The manager deploys a clinical analyst to investigate the specific drivers of the cost differential, positing that if there are discrepancies in the way these three providers deliver care they could be rectified to reduce overall mortality and cost.
Free Version Available to Health Catalyst Customers
Interested customers of Health Catalyst can get started using Touchstone Public, a limited edition available at no cost. Contact your Health Catalyst representative for more information and to unlock the free version today.
What Customers Can Expect in the Future
Health Catalyst believes that with the right type and amount of data, all things are possible. Our ability to understand and transform healthcare in the future will depend on the breadth and depth of data available—including self-reported data, genomic data, social determinants, and more.
“It’s the breadth and depth of data that Touchstone delivers that matters most to enabling an unprecedented feature engineering set for AI and machine learning applications,” said Sanders. “If we are successful with Touchstone and it lives up to its full potential, we humbly believe that it could become a national asset for better understanding of both population health and decision support in medicine.”
Survey Reveals Importance of Benchmarking
Health Catalyst conducted an online survey in February 2018 to determine typical responses to existing benchmarking technology. The 100 respondents included 14 CEOs, 16 CFOs, and 23 CIOs in organizations ranging from community hospitals (36%) to integrated delivery systems (27%) and academic medical centers (10%). Findings included:
- In determining where to focus their improvement initiatives, “performance against benchmarks” (22%) was nearly as important to respondents as regulatory requirements (25%) and improvement team recommendations (24%).
- Participants felt that easier integration of benchmarks into existing analytics is the No. 1 way to make them more helpful, followed by more timely data, easier access to the benchmarks themselves, and integration of benchmark comparisons into strategic prioritization and decision-making tools.
- Organizations currently use and would like to continue to use benchmarks across all categories almost equally (operations, outpatient, inpatient, regulatory/reporting, and severity of illness).