Humanity and Data: Combining Mission and ROI in Healthcare Operations

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For the past eight years, my family and I have been hosts for Hospitality Homes, a Boston-based organization that connects local volunteers who have a spare bedroom with out-of-town families of patients in Boston for medical treatment. We’ve had guests from all over the word, and they stay for as little as one night and as long as four months.

Our participation in this program is a constant reminder that the data we study at Hospital IQ tells a very human story. The rows of patient flow data we ingest are not just statistical components, but narrate each patient’s personal journey through the healthcare system.

For example, our surgical data has a column for “delay reason” when a surgery starts late. It can be as simple as “surgeon late” or “incomplete consent”. But seeing a recent value of “prior emergency case” reminded me of a guest we had a few years ago.

This patient and her family used vacation time from work to travel to Boston for a complex elective procedure not available in her home town. A third family member was planning to arrive middle of the following week for a second wave of support when otherse had to return to work.

The family arrived two days before the procedure to get settled in and be at the hospital early on the day before the surgery for pre-operative tests. This included introductions to the surgical team that the family reported as being very reassuring. When the family came home back to our house at the end of the day, they were exhausted. Typical of healthcare, their day was “hurry up and wait”, mixed with getting lost in complex hospital corridors. Their evening was spent on the phone and social media providing updates for a wider range of friends and family not in Boston. Everyone was clearly nervous about the procedure, which was not without risk.

On the day of the surgery they left early for a 7:30 surgery start time. All the preparation was complete. They were ready. However, the surgery was cancelled because of an emergency case that caused an OR backup and bed shortage. They were rescheduled for the end of the week. Now what? All their intracte plans have been thrown into chaos. As wonderful a destination as Boston is, sightseeing wasn’t the reason they were in town. They were left in a state of anticipatory limbo..

This would have been just one line of data in a feed we get every day. But to this family, this one line represents a major distruption to their encounter. From a financial perspective, the event was “revenue neutral”. But that ignores the human emotional impact to both the patient and as well as the disruption to hospital staff tasked to provide their care.

In this particular case, I can’t know if the surgery could have avoided being bumped with better operations and planning – it was before Hospital IQ existed. But for the hospitals that are our clientsusing our software, I think of this family every time we look for opportunites to improve access to care.

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