Working with Aexis Group, a long-term analytics partner for the hospital, Liège University Hospital decided to use IBM Watson Analytics to help it unlock the value of data in the feedback reports. Watson Analytics is a smart, cloud-based data discovery service that guides data exploration, automates predictive analytics and enables the effortless creation of dashboards and infographics.
Nancy Laport, Consultant in Hospital Management Analysis at Aexis Group, comments: “We had seen a demonstration of Watson Analytics, and we liked the fact that you can do a lot of analysis without having to build a formal model. In practical terms, this means that you don’t need to know in advance what kind of questions you want to ask, and this was a good fit with the challenges Liège University Hospital was facing. Olivier Thonon had given us a copy of the feedback file, and we fed it straight into Watson Analytics to see what the outcome would be.”
“The solution immediately produced what were clearly relevant questions and topics for investigation,” recalls Olivier Thonon. “Watson Analytics makes the Excel files much easier to interpret, and enables us to proceed with data discovery and the development of analyses. When we saw the possibilities, we realized that the solution could bring us a major return on investment.”
After experimenting with a free trial version of the solution, Olivier Thonon showed the potential value-add to his executive management and gained approval to subscribe to the professional version, which is designed for enterprises and includes a multi-user environment for collaboration and more data connectors.
“At present, I use the solution two or three times a week,” he says. “First, to enhance the readability of the feedback and to put into context elements that could help us improve. I’ve built several scenarios based on the feedback file, which are used to provide simple visual performance reports to the different care units. We’re beginning to use the solution to build profiles of each care unit in terms of workload, and we’re also working to feed Watson Analytics with a whole set of data that is potentially relevant for analysis.”
Awareness drives optimization
Using Watson Analytics gives Liège University Hospital the ability to understand and query complex data rapidly and with minimal effort.
Nancy Laport comments: “One of the major advantages of Watson Analytics is its ability to go rapidly from complex data to visual reports that can be used immediately at the management level. When you analyze, you want to get results as fast as possible and to build awareness among decision-makers about the problem or the action that needs to happen as a result.”
Olivier Thonon adds: “Our first objective was to be able to understand the feedback reports, and we have clearly achieved that. In fact, we’ve gone further: we knew that the feedback file was rich, but we didn’t realize it was quite this rich. We already understand the key points, and this will enable us to make practical modifications. That’s the second objective, and undoubtedly it will take longer to modify our working practices. The ability to visualize the data is a big help here, making it easier to communicate the results of analysis so that everyone in the organization can understand what needs to be done.”
The ability to see the hospital’s performance in detail and to compare it to national standards will help ensure that Liège University Hospital first maintains and then attempts to improve its standing. As Liège University Hospital ramps up its use of the solution and potentially extends it to other scenarios, Olivier Thonon expects greater awareness of performance to spread through the organization: the first step towards making improvements.
He comments: “Awareness comes from a good understanding of the available data. With the same effort as before, we can achieve far more in our analysis, and this gives us both the desire and the time go further. We can ask ourselves new questions, make new connections, and base our decisions on objective data. Of course, it’s a step-by-step process: we make sure we understand each scenario, and then we look to add in more aspects as suggested by Watson.”
Ultimately, Olivier Thonon envisages automating the profiling of each care unit’s workload and performance based on the feedback data and on data from operational systems. This would help the organization understand its changing workload and how best to allocate available nursing resources.
For the time being, the focus is on mining the feedback for new insight into hospital performance. Olivier Thonon concludes: “Although we receive the official feedback only once a year, we can keep using Watson Analytics as a tool for improvement, putting new data in to analyze how our performance is changing over time. This doesn’t give us the full financial picture, because it doesn’t take into account the performance of the other hospitals, but it’s a very useful interim benchmark. The first step towards improvement is to understand where your challenges lie, and that is certainly something we can now do.”