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With SAP Data Solutions, Mercy Cuts $30 Million in Implant and Surgical Supply Costs


Sponsored: SAP helped Mercy extract value from its EHR — over three years, the program saved Mercy tens of millions — before the health system turned to data for insight on medical devices.

SAP data solutions help Mercy Technology Services achieve cost savings and exceptional patient care in areas across Mercy health system. This branded article is sponsored by SAP.

Curtis Dudley saw an opening to help clinicians and perioperative services leaders use data to reduce costs, but he didn’t realize the size of the opportunity. As the vice president of enterprise analytics at Mercy Technology Services (MTS), the IT arm of the St. Louis-based health system Mercy, whose 40-plus hospitals and 800 outpatient facilities make it among the largest Catholic health systems in the U.S., Dudley was responsible for unlocking data that could empower clinicians and administrators to take their business to the next level. But despite being stored somewhere within Mercy, the data weren’t accessible, insightful or actionable. Plus, Dudley needed powerful data analytics solutions just to quantify the potential benefits, much less realize them.

To get the job done correctly, Mercy and MTS partnered with SAP. Soon enough, Dudley and his 80-plus analytics team members throughout the Midwest were moving from manual to automated operations and extracting tremendous value from Mercy’s Epic system. For instance, the time it took to create and deliver a block utilization report plummeted from 40 hours to mere seconds. SAP’s analytical tools gave MTS the ability to uncover insights and fuel informed decision making that helped Mercy achieve tens of millions of dollars in cost savings while delivering exceptional patient care.

“All of our data sits on top of a data platform that’s based on SAP HANA,” Dudley told Healthcare Analytics News™, praising the enterprise in-memory data platform. “What took 30 minutes to run in Oracle takes three seconds to do in HANA. That’s the difference.”

The Effects of Mercy’s Analytics on Supply Costs

Initial demonstrations were a success, and Mercy continued its surgical supply work, focusing on perioperative services. But the task required more robust data infrastructure than a basic analytics dashboard could provide. So Mercy leveraged SAP HANA, which enabled its data scientists to run detailed analyses and product evaluations. All of a sudden, Mercy could see costly variations in clinical practice and then bring those insights to doctors.

Dudley recalled meeting with one surgeon who wondered why his per-case costs exceeded Mercy’s average. In the past, the answer might have eluded Mercy, forcing at least one more meeting and no guaranteed solution. This time around, Dudley pointed to the data and revealed that the surgeon had been using a disposable-tip scalpel, while his peers leveraged reusable devices.

“I don’t have to use the disposable scalpel,” the surgeon responded. “I only use that because it’s what they hand me.”

It turned out that SAP’s tools, coupled with Mercy’s advanced capabilities and data science, opened a new realm of efficiencies and cost savings, furthering the case that Mercy’s analytics evolution would rank among the smoothest and most fruitful in healthcare.

Over three years, Mercy used this technology to save $30 million in perioperative supply costs alone.

Mercy had quickly become a much-praised EHR analytics success story thanks to its experts and their use of SAP HANA and SAP BusinessObjects, a high-power business intelligence suite. But Dudley’s work wasn’t finished, and he and SAP began to focus on a new target: medical devices.

How Mercy Began to Help Measure Medical Devices

With the global medical device market slated to hit $543.9 billion next year and more than 6,500 device manufacturers in the U.S. alone, there’s little mystery as to why medical devices have emerged as a pain point for many health systems. As the quantity of available devices climbs, it becomes increasingly difficult for a healthcare organization to properly understand a tool’s efficacy — especially without using it first. Simply determining the location of a medical device, never mind its level of efficiency, is often a frustrating exercise in large health systems.

But could data help? Healthcare providers and innovators thought so, and little more than a decade ago, U.S. lawmakers passed legislation paving the way for a unique device identifier (UDI) system to keep tabs on medical devices and their performance.

In 2012, Mercy became a pioneer when it teamed up with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for an 18-month demonstration program of one such UDI system. The initiative was designed to explore how implanted coronary artery stents could be monitored through a UDI system, with data flowing into the EHR and the FDA’s adverse event reporting system.

SAP HANA had joined forces with the health system’s UDI system and data scientists to unearth invaluable insights that could empower Mercy to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs now and over the long term.

Consider a scenario where Mercy used a Boston Scientific coronary stent. At the time of implantation, the health system would scan the device’s barcode and upload it to a patient’s medical record. As a result, the data science team could compare stents from Boston Scientific, Abbott, Medtronic and others.

“We can look at cost, quality and patient outcomes, and then we can figure out which device is performing better,” Dudley said.

“We would not have been able to get this kind of information without a lot of effort. Now, it’s readily available within minutes.”

The capabilities have led to new research collaborations with global medical technology companies, enabling the device giants to use MTS’ robust data platform, advanced analytics techniques and more than a decade of deidentified clinical data in Mercy’s Epic system to help evaluate and improve the effectiveness of medical devices.

Want to learn more about Mercy’s successful work with SAP? Curtis Dudley is speaking at the HIMSS19 Cloud Computing Forum at 9:45 a.m. Monday, Feb. 11, in Rosen Centre Executive 1 at the Orange County Convention Center. Dudley will discuss how Mercy leverages cloud analytics and EHR data to instill best practices across the health system, achieving better outcomes, new revenue streams and cost savings. Learn more here.


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