Health systems across the U.S. increasingly are leveraging “big data” to better understand physician practicing patterns and drive performance improvement, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Details of Data-Tracking Efforts

Hospital executives say that such technology allows for more accurate and faster tracking of individual physicians.

At MemorialCare Health System in California, executives have begun tracking how doctors employed at the hospital or affiliated medical groups perform on a series of measures, including:

  • Immunizations;
  • Mammograms; and
  • Blood glucose control in diabetic patients.

The health system uses the Advisory Board Company’s Crimson software to compile information, analyze the data and then determine physician payments.

ABC publishes iHealthBeat.

Barry Arbuckle — CEO of MemorialCare — said that the software allows the hospital to compare physician performance based on various issues, such as:

  • Complications;
  • Readmissions; and
  • Cost measurements.

According to MemorialCare executives, the doctor data tracking and other initiatives have helped reduce the average stay for adult inpatients from 4.2 days in 2011 to four days in 2012. Such efforts also have reduced the average cost per admitted patient by $280, which saved the health system a total of $13.8 million from 2011 to 2012.

The executives say that the programs have helped the hospital improve on certain quality indicators, such as:

  • Readmissions;
  • Mortality; and
  • Complications.

Doctors Split on Big Data Effort

Marnie Baker — a pediatrician and head of MemorialCare’s big data strategy — said that most physicians are receptive to the effort and work to improve their results.

However, some physicians are skeptical of the approach.

Venkat Warren — a cardiologist at MemorialCare — said that he has “a lot of reservations” about the program, noting that it could pressure physicians to avoid sicker patients to boost their performances and raise their payments (Wilde Mathews, Wall Street Journal, 7/11).


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