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An emphasis on creating strong data cultures and powerful visualization continues to define Tableau's growth. However, it was clearly evident at Tableau Conference 2015 that the vendor has been putting in a lot of work "beneath the hood." This was nicely substantiated by a number of Tableau users from the healthcare sector who, in addition to praising Tableau's front end, gave the thumbs up for the vendor's integration capabilities and flexibility. The challenging analytics journeys of these organizations hold both sobering and inspiring lessons for peers. They also underline the healthcare analytics paradox. While the sector is crying out for a long-term revolutionary change in attitude towards information empowerment, the reality is success will be hard-won and evolutionary in nature.

One step at a time for healthcare information transformation

Two compelling trends running across the people, process, and technology aspects of analytics stood out for us in Tableau's healthcare customers' stories. They underline the amount of work involved in establishing a first solid step for impactful self-service analytics across healthcare organizations, rather than the historically limited application within individual departments.

Frameworks, governance, and consistency. Kaiser Permanente and St. Joseph Health talked eloquently of the importance of addressing what we would term "data and reporting anarchy." The latter had painstakingly reduced 69,000 reports, many of which were unused with very little insight into data veracity and auditing, down to 10,000 with far better governance and usability. The former emphasized how important it is to ensure consistency in data use and definitions and to tackle data duplication. These are not scintillating aspects of analytics, but are essential to producing a well-functioning data democracy.

Culture, mindset, and context. Every healthcare organization talked of building a data-friendly culture by showing the benefits of good analysis that produces tangible results, such as effective testing of infection-reduction programs (the Hospital Corporation of America) or overall improved reporting (St. Joseph Health). However, seeing data through the different lenses of users – as St. Joseph Health put it – was fundamental to success. Piedmont Health's use of Tableau to help standardize and improve workforce management and productivity was a classic example of how the use of analytics must go hand in hand with the development of far more nuanced benchmarking which takes these different lenses into account. In Piedmont's case, benchmarking the use of agency nurses and full-time employees was combined with a very human understanding of when, if, and how it was appropriate to compare different departments. This kind of nuance will be critical to ensuring analytics provides the answers required for healthcare improvement and transformation.


Further reading

Right-Sizing Analytics in Healthcare: Success Factors and Lessons, IT0011-000369 (August 2015)

Right-Sizing Analytics in Healthcare: Market Context and Maturity, IT0011-000370 (August 2015)

Enterprise Case Study: Democratizing Insights in the NHS, IT0011-000376 (September 2015)

The Case for Making Analytics a First-Class Citizen in Healthcare, IT0011-000339 (January 2015)

A Practitioner's Guide to Self-Service BI and Analytics, IT0014-002967 (December 2014)

Ovum Decision Matrix: Selecting a Business Intelligence Solution, 2014–15, IT0014-002923 (July 2014)


Charlotte Davies, Lead Analyst, Health Technology

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