in Semana Informática, 27 September 2010
Endeavoring to ensure a positive evolution of the vital signs of healthcare providers, the software company opened a new information world, thus completing its DW offer with Microstrategy's Business Intelligence (BI).
When in 2006 the company decided in favor of Microstrategy's technology, ALERT was seeking more functional flexibility and, above all, usage flexibility. By doing so, the company definitely met the needs of managers and people in charge of clinical decisions. Aware that health information is related to diagnoses in the same way that treatment is related to disease, the software company integrated Microstrategy's BI application, a tool that evolves at the same rhythm as your business, version 9 of which was released at the start of 2010. The BI software is integrated into the ALERT® DATA WAREHOUSE (ADW) solution – the ALERT tool that creates analytical reports and which supports clinical decisions and resource management in healthcare.
Having reinforced ADW with an intelligence component, the healthcare entities that are ALERT's customers allow their professionals to gather all data at the facility in a single location, and start thus to explore its potential by analyzing that information. All clinical and management data may be retrieved, reviewed, analyzed and compared. "At present, we have a product that gathers information from various ALERT® environments and that then produces profile oriented knowledge," explained Hélder Quintela, ALERT's Business Intelligence Executive Manager. According to this professional, BI ensures a transversal approach of all processes that integrate the functioning of a hospital or healthcare unit, whether it is the patients' clinical processes, the service performance, the management or the financial or the integration with ERP systems information. This brings a global vision of what is going on at the organization.
Clinical practice gains
What's happening at the hospital? How is the primary care center performing? How many appointments were processed? What are the diagnoses? What are the prescriptions? How many patients returned to the facility? These are just some examples of possible questions. "It is possible to gather profound and far-reaching knowledge in this type of integration and it can be widely explored by crossing data, indicators and specific information," points out Hélder Quintela. We cannot measure the gains for the health sector solely on a quantity point of view; we must also consider the quality perspective that includes better clinical practice, increased reliability of care provided to citizens and in care providers' sustainability.
This BI specialist believes that the health sector has already understood the role of information in its business model. "The maturity level of organizations in Portugal is growing and that is already showing in the management level and in the increasing need for information." According to Hélder Quintela, empiric knowledge that is so valued in healthcare is losing terrain to the information extracted by BI tools, and "healthcare professionals and management now clearly understand the added-value that this type of tool can bring."
Whether it is done by clinical key users, or by managers, the important thing is that organizations promote the use of information to improve clinical practice, and to define new protocols and new workflows. Santo António Hospital in Porto is one of the ALERT® users that have reached the information era. Active in this hospital's emergency services, the technological tool provided by ALERT is able to define parameters regarding the destination of the hospital patients by analyzing around 500 thousand patients who underwent triage. Knowing that around 9% of the patients arriving at the hospital's Emergency Services were directed to Inpatient, one of the hospital's problems was to determine which patients presented a higher probability of being admitted. "Once the patterns are established, that knowledge can be reused within the ADW application itself by issuing alerts and suggesting action protocols to adequately forward patients and activate the respective processes in Inpatient Services, or in another service," he continued.
With an internal improvement strategy based on BI tools, managers and physicians are able to follow the internal operations of their teams and gather a timely understanding of their organization's performance indicators without having to depend on information provided by central organizations.
When questioned on the choice of Microstrategy technology to reinforce ADW's analytical capacity, Hélder Quintela highlights the solution’s response time in development processes. "The abstraction achieved and the fact that it is easy to impose a working rhythm makes it easy to quickly provide final users with new analysis functionalities. This is important especially when we have a standard product available to various markets that needs to meet different requirements and that sometimes needs specific adjustments to meet customers' needs."
Having demonstrated a positive response in terms of development and stability, ALERT has equally privileged Microstrategy's response to its expansion needs. "Since the adoption of version 9, we were really able to position the product as we had intended for a long time, that is, to make it international but standardized without having to replicate development work for the various markets and languages," commented the specialist.
Moving into mobility is another evolution area that has been very beneficial for the product. Following Microstrategy's development line, which consists in providing information through mobile platforms, such as iPhone and iPad, ALERT is equally committed to make access to information easier for decision makers, board of directors or clinicians, regardless of their location. It is actually about transferring all knowledge generated in the BI platform into a mobile device, and thus encouraging its usage to promote professional or even organizational performance. "This strategy enables us to make data available and personal according to the different levels of the management pyramid, as well as to issue occasional reports with activity indicators for service directors," states Hélder Quintela.
By maximizing the whole information and mobility analysis structure, ALERT is also trying a strategy of proximity to the end user. The company recently made ALERT® Pollens for iPhone available; this is an application that enables users to access the Portuguese Society of Allergology and Clinical Immunology polynic forecasts, as well as view the records’ history and information on the various types of pollen available in Portugal. The company's roadmap also includes another release within this concept of mobility. ALERT Health News will soon be available in Android and iPhone.