FREEPORT, ME – Participation in a national hospital project has shown one small Maine hospital the importance of business intelligence tools.

The 65-bed Franklin Memorial Hospital, a member of Franklin Community Health Network (FCHN), is taking part in Value Journey, a project organized by the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA). The project sets out to identify common challenges that all healthcare providers are facing as they adapt to a value-based business model, such as the fragmentation of care delivery, as well as common capabilities, strategies and tactics that will help them make the change. Thirty-five hospital systems across the country are taking part.

Franklin Memorial has chosen to focus on one facet of the Value Journey project – using business intelligence tools to drive clinical and financial improvement at the hospital said Wayne Bennett, the chief financial officer of FCHN, during a one-day workshop sponsored by the Maine chapter of HFMA.

The hospital began by focusing on a combination of two issues: data warehousing and data integration technologies and desktop query, reporting and analysis tools for self-service access to information, said Bennett.

“Putting the two together – data warehousing and desktop query – allows us to really understand this,” said Bennett. “Relationships of data drive the business intelligence, and you can stop working off of anecdotal information and focus on straight facts. Really, data intelligence is an evolution.”

The evolution of business intelligence maturity, explained Bennett, begins with production reporting, moves to spreadmarts and then eventually moves towards data marts and data warehouses, where data is pooled and reports are run off of a common database, rather than separated databases from each department of the hospital.

“We are at the data warehousing period of the evolution, where we are not only working off of one database, but we are also delivering business intelligence dashboards of information and putting more energy on analyzing information, rather than gathering information,” said Bennett.

Bennett explained that the hospital partnered with PowerHealth Solutions, which specializes in hospital data systems for patient costing and billing, to work on getting their hospital data out of specific systems in the organization and into one data warehouse.

The evolution does not stop at data warehousing though, explained Bennett. From data warehousing, organizations can then make the leap to enterprise data warehousing, where “people begin studying the data and working on improving costs and solving problems,” he said.

From here, organizations then move towards the “ultimate evolution” period of analytic services where every smaller system is driven by an analytic database, he said.

“Wherever your organization is along this evolution spectrum, the good news is you can always try to move to the next level,” he said. “The key is to keep going rather than try to perfect everything at once.”