​How Sanford Health is revolutionizing healthcare through analytics

We spoke to Sanford Health senior director of data and analytics, Derrick Schafer, about how the private healthcare firm uses patient analytics to address some of the biggest healthcare issues the facing the US


Healthcare is a hot button issue in the US and has been for as long as most people can remember. In the lead up to this year's midterm elections, the national debate regarding the price Americans pay for healthcare and who has access to it is being discussed at length from a variety of different perspectives.

However, in the absence of any monumental regulatory change from above, many people have instead put their trust and hope in private healthcare providers and the technology they leverage to make our lives better. With the ability to effectively analyze patient data revolutionizing healthcare, we spoke to Derrick Schafer, senior director of data and analytics at Sanford Health, about how the company is bettering its patients' lives through data-driven decision making.

Innovation Enterprise: How do you use data analytics to manage such a large healthcare base?

Derrick Schafer: We believe the key to our success in supporting our large healthcare base with analytics is the centralization of data that occurred approximately three years ago. This has allowed us to spend our time focusing on what to do with the data instead of arguing about the validity of the data. A common term we have used is "One Source of Truth". Key in this transition was top-level leadership support driven largely by the desire to be a data-driven organization.

IE: How have you used data visualization in decision making?

DS: Sanford utilizes visualization for our leading indicators that provide end-users with actionable information as well as key descriptive indicators. We also leverage visualizations tools as we roll out new models. We are an SAP shop, so Lumira and Webi are our primary tools for visualizing data.

IE: How has the mindset around data analysis transformed since you first joined Sanford Health and what were the biggest propellers of these changes?

DS: The mindset around data at Sanford has really transitioned from descriptive metrics to leading indicators. It has taken some time to change the culture, but we have made significant headway toward actionable data and what that means. The other key change has been our movement to an on-demand culture. To allow our staff capacity to focus on advanced analytics we needed to get a high percentage (our goal is 80%) of our descriptive data available for end users to access when and where they need it without requesting that information. We have made significant headway on this initiative, but it was met with initial resistance. Creating embedding analysts within key organizational service lines was also a major change that has had remarkable success.

IE: Do you believe data analysis can help make a difference in national issues such as the opioid crisis?

DS: I think it can and already is at Sanford Health. One example is the extensive work we have carried out with Physician Leadership to create information for every provider ordering opioids and benzodiazepines on a routine basis that compares them to their specific specialty.

IE: Do you think wearables will become more widely utilized by healthcare systems and does Sanford Health any plans to begin using them?

DS: We don't currently leverage wearables or devices in our analytics, but do see them as an important source of information and a key part of our analytics strategy in our one-to-two year vision.

To find out more on how you can leverage data analytics to deliver patient-centric outcomes, visit this year AI & Data for Pharma Summit, part of DATAx New York on December 12–13, 2018.

Book your place HERE.

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