Turning Data into Action by Leveraging 'Low Hanging Analytics'

By Kevin Ward

In healthcare, we constantly seek new ways to deliver and improve care. Countless ideas have already been tried and tested, and people often think that coming up with the next great innovation requires thinking ‘outside of the box.’ This notion has been instilled in most of us from a young age, and those in all industries – not just healthcare – often strive to show their creativity through this approach. However, in my experience, thinking outside of the box doesn’t always lead to the best new ideas. Sometimes, we need to focus on thinking better inside the box.

At the University of Michigan Center for Integrative Research in Critical Care (MCIRCC), we are working to improve how patients suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are cared for. One of our approaches is to find new ways to leverage and act upon data that is already available. Think of it as low-hanging analytics. There are several pieces of patient information that are critical to fully understanding a patient’s condition, and this is particularly true with TBI patients. That information has been underutilized in the past, and we are working to synthesize it in ways that become far more useful for clinicians. This is vital when one considers how the condition of a TBI patient can drastically change within minutes. Right now, even when interventions do happen, they may already be too late.

In a nutshell, here’s how it works: by using a single dashboard and applying analytics in real time, we are providing our physicians with more precise monitoring of individual patients. By fusing the existing data with additional parameters, physicians will have immediate access to vital insights that can help to better predict both a patient’s outcome and the risk for additional injuries or secondary effects. Thanks to improved visualization of the data and a more complete understanding of the patient’s condition, measures can be taken to work toward more favorable outcomes.

As the healthcare IT industry has grown, we have focused heavily on capturing individual pieces of patient information. While each piece of data is important and we want to make sure that every piece is captured, individual pieces of data in isolation may not be useful in making a care decision or predicting outcomes. For instance, some patients may have a higher intracranial pressure (ICP) than considered normal, but are otherwise just fine. If a physician determined that a patient’s ICP is high, it still may not be appropriate for the physician to alter medications or other aspects of the care plan. Physicians need to look at multiple parameters and factors when working to improve patient outcomes. This is key in the new era of precision health.

Leveraging low-hanging analytics entails looking at multiple pieces of patient data so that physicians can make more informed decisions. When taking steps to repurpose and re-evaluate existing data, physicians can improve the outcomes of their patients thanks to improved visualization of the patient’s status, followed by timely intervention. Educating more clinicians about the power and potential of this process will move us ever closer to the widespread industry goal of achieving precision health.

This article was originally posted in Mobile Health Matters.