Driven by Data
UHS AND BU RESEARCH PARTNERSHIP REDUCES READMISSIONS
A partnership between UHS and Binghamton University (BU) is leading to healthcare advances that mean care providers can anticipate and prevent medical problems at a level never achieved before.
Already the partnership has led to two breakthrough studies that create more accurate metrics to predict when a patient is likely to suffer medical complications and identify easy, inexpensive ways to avoid them.
Rajesh Davé, MD, MBA, serves in two capacities, as executive vice president for Clinical Integration and Chief Medical Officer at UHS, and as dean of the Clinical Campus at Binghamton of the State University of New York’s Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.
“This is something new for us, coming up with data sets and informatics,” he says. “We now have hard-core science research that’s more data-driven.”
The first of the two projects saw Mohammad Khasawneh, PhD, an associate professor of systems science and industrial engineering, and Assistant Professor Sang Won Yoon, PhD, adapt a process used normally to reduce manufacturing defects.
“Every discharge is an opportunity for a defect,” says Dr. Khasawneh. “In this case, it’s a person coming back.”
The researchers analyzed data from 2009 to 2011 and found correlations between facts—anything from medication compliance to ZIP code—and readmissions. They then created better health assessment models. That led to a pilot program with social work experts from BU’s College of Community and Public Affairs, led by Associate Dean Laura Bronstein, LCWR, ACSW, PhD, that had social workers follow up with recently-transitioned UHS patients.
Through this collaboration, social workers learned the medical factors that complicate recovery and medical providers saw the life issues that cause readmission — from transportation to appointments, diet, mobility and medication issues.
The research model worked, cutting UHS’ readmissions from an already respectable 18 percent to less than 8 percent—a third of the national average. That means fewer complications for patients. It means faster, easier recovery. And it means avoiding the costs of readmission for the patient and the private or public insurer.
A FIRST STEP
“Any time patient outcomes are improved at less cost for the patient, it’s better,” says Matthew Salanger, president and CEO of UHS. “Having the patient receive his or her care in the least costly environment makes sense. And ideally, that environment is at home.”
It’s a first step. “The knowledge base of what works best is still being defined,” Mr. Salanger says. Still, information is critical to care and must be understood across the spectrum of patients’ lives.
That puts UHS in a unique position to become an industry leader. It already provides full-spectrum care from delivery room to nursing home. That’s uncommon among healthcare providers, and gives the university, which includes a nursing school, a compact test bed for the latest in healthcare developments. “That positions UHS on a national scale much more effectively than our counterparts across the nation,” says Mr. Salanger.
And it portends a day, Dr. Davé says, when a care provider monitoring vital signs of a patient will be alerted by a database of a problem that has yet to present clear symptoms. “We will use the informatics of the future to enhance the patient experience,” he says. “For the best patient outcomes, you have to have the humanity and the scientific curiosity to blend them both.”