The spread of COVID-19 has placed immense pressure on healthcare systems across the world. As the pandemic gripped the US at the beginning of the year, Maine's Northern Light Health (NLH) found that its recent migration to Infor CloudSuite allowed it to gain a centralised view of its back-office data and create real time dashboards that meant it could effectively respond to the public health crisis.
NLH is the most expansive healthcare system in Maine, comprised of ten member hospitals, 986 licensed beds, eight nursing homes, 37 primary care locations and employing more than 12,000 people. Historically, NHL operated as a federated model where each of the ten member hospitals worked independently. The ambition of moving to Infor CloudSuite in recent years was to create a leading integrated healthcare system, which has stood up to the test of COVID-19.
Randy Albert, Associate VP of finance and analytics at NLH, was speaking recently at Infor's virtual Inforum event, where he explained the challenges the organisation faced historically when it came to data collection. He said;
NHL's heritage was a group of loosely federated but fragmented hospitals. We called ourselves an integrated health system but we weren't truly integrated from a technology perspective. Especially with our back office functions. While member hospitals had the same software, many were running different versions - from policies, procedures, data sets, etc.
So to understand the big picture on anything, data would need to be pulled from disparate systems and manually collated into a spreadsheet or database for further analysis. Of course this was labour intensive, time consuming and error prone.
By moving to Infor, Albert said, NLH gained a single source of truth for integrated back office functions, such as HR, finance and supply chain, which allowed for the consolidation and sharing of key operational and financial information. He added:
Having a single source of truth for back office data set the stage for several new capabilities and improvements. It also helped executives when COVID-19 changed the healthcare landscape, introducing unique challenges and opportunities, where data enabled us to be more responsive to COVID-19.
Unsurprisingly, NLH faced many difficulties when the realities of COVID-19 hit. Many of the back-office functions that are supported by the Infor platform were impacted by the onslaught of the pandemic. For example, patient volume increased dramatically, new patient safety and PPE considerations emerged, testing increased exponentially and medical equipment availability became a challenge throughout the state of Maine.
In addition to this, on the staffing side, NLH had to understand its workforce in much greater detail. For example, it needed a clear view of which employees had the right licenses in order to respond to the front line and if they could be deployed. Were they active employees? Where were they located?
And then on the finance side, as elective surgeries and other services reduced in the months following the first wave of COVID-19, there were unexpected revenue losses across the health system, as well as unexpected cost increases related to needing additional supplies. Albert said:
I'm sure many of you can relate to the scenarios that we put together to try and predict what's next. It was so important that with all of these challenges, we needed to get good data and having that data enabled us to provide our executive leadership and clinicians to make the right decisions for our patients, employees and our communities.
Using data to respond
Albert said that data was pivotal in allowing NLH to respond rapidly and effectively to COVID-19. Because the hospitals had all been integrated onto Infor CloudSuite, NLH was able to pull consistent data out of its source systems. He said:
We were able to take that raw data and create dashboards and analytics that were constantly refreshing. It empowered NLH leadership, providers and staff. It gave them the information required to act quickly and effectively to the constantly evolving challenges in managing COVID-19 across such an expansive health system.
Truly without an integrated platform to cover areas such as your back-office functions, it wouldn't have been possible without that single source of truth.
So, what dashboards did NLH create? On the patient side, data was pulled and analytics used to get a near real time view of in-patient capacity, as well as the positive testing of patients across the health system and the State of Maine. In addition to this a single view of inventory levels of critical supplies was created, which was obviously necessary to support front line activities.
The dashboards were also extended to workforce analytics. Albert explained:
In those dashboards, they contained many, many different data points that we were able to put together through consistent data out of platforms like Infor, that allows for a consolidated structure that manages several different organisations. Zooming in on some of the data points, one area that was a prime focus was workforce analytics.
What type of licenses does an employee have? Are the licenses sufficient to be deployed to the front lines? Was the employee active? Terminated? Were they on leave? Infor's platform enabled us to get that data in a consolidated manner for over 12,000 employees across the entire state of Maine, in a short amount of time.
Employee events were also monitored, such as if an employee was exposed to COVID-19 and where they were, as well as employee testing, and the tracking of the hours employees spent on COVID-19 related work.
On the business and finance side, NLH focused on creating dashboards for insights into charges and revenue. It was reporting revenue on at least a daily basis, comparing to its forecasts and recovery plans. This was particularly helpful as NLH sought funding to support its COVID-19 work. Albert said:
It was imperative for us to get that daily revenue out of the system in order to see how we were doing and what we needed to do to respond more quickly. Expense trending and tracking became very important - being able to pull expenses related to COVID-19 out of the Infor system on a near real time basis. We were able to tag expenses with a COVID-19 activity within Infor and report on that activity regularly. That information has been very beneficial to our organisation as we sought several funding in order to get reimbursed for what was incurred to respond to the crisis.
Finally, NLH also made use of supply chain analytics, where it was able to identify and source supplies in order to respond to COVID-19, assessing inventory levels at all of its hospitals, warehouses and other locations on a near real-time basis. Commenting on the outcomes from NLH's use of data, Albert concluded:
These analytics provided our leadership with timely and actionable insights to improve the delivery of healthcare - patient safety, operational efficiency and financial risk reduction to our health system.