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How Henry Ford Health aggregates data for better decision-making

The health system is shifting its data focus to an enterprise-level analysis of clinical and operations from a wide range of sources.
By admin
May 16, 2022, 10:34 AM

Healthcare has spent decades aggregating data, dating back to when it was processed with punch cards. Data is now “table stakes” for the industry, said Carladenise Edwards, Ph.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer for Henry Ford Health System. Data-driven decision-making must come next.

“Now, we’re creating reports and amassing knowledge,” she said. “We’re ready to move to the next level, where the analysis informs behavior and drives the outcomes we’re trying to achieve.”

Actionable information should provide not just a retrospective look at what has happened but a foundation for predicting what will happen, Edwards said. Whether this information is clinical or operational, the goal is the same: Closing gaps in care.

“We want to ensure we constantly optimize our business assets, address the health needs of the patients in our community, manage our financial plans and trajectories, and understand the environment we’re operating in,” said Edwards, who previously served in a CSO role for Providence St. Joseph Health and Alameda Health System.

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Like many health systems, Henry Ford augments its internal data with a range of external data sources. One is the state health information exchange known as MiHIN. Another is a community information exchange, in development and backed by the United Way, which Edwards compared to a digital version of the blue pages of the phone book. 

Through electronic medical record integration, this exchange aspires to directly connect Henry Ford’s clinical team to the United Way and other community-based organizations. “They don’t have to leave the EMR to create a ‘prescription’ for a food bank or assistance with a utility bill,” she said. 

This has the added benefit of providing a warm handoff at the point of care. “The physician will get a notification that the patient went to the food bank – and in their next visit, they can ask, ‘How did that work for you?’” Edwards said. “And if the patient didn’t go, we know to have a case manager follow up with them. This is something we’re hoping to standardize.”

Henry Ford also works with data vendors. One is Sg2, which provides claims, utilization, and financial data. Another is Truveta, a consortium governed by 20 community health systems that has partnered with Lexis Nexis to amass and de-identify consumer data from public and private sources. 

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When combined with clinical data, this information helps health systems better understand who receives care, who defers care, or who may be declined for care. “We’re hoping to enable organizations to study larger data sets as opposed to small, local data sets,” said Truveta CEO Terry Myerson. “This will help them address care pathways that may be linked to inequities them while also bringing in revenue.”

With data from a range of sources, Henry Ford can study trends ranging from disease diagnoses in a certain ZIP code to utilization in certain emergency departments. Edwards said this improves decision-making at the enterprise level, whether it’s hiring more staff, investing in additional services, or partnering with local organizations. “We close the information gaps,” she said.


Brian Eastwood is a Boston-based writer with more than 10 years of experience covering healthcare IT and healthcare delivery. He also writes about enterprise IT, consumer technology, and corporate leadership.

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