UNC Charlotte Technology to Help Hospitals Learn from Patient Data

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UNC Charlotte and a major healthcare data company have launched new technology that will help hospitals organize and analyze patient statistics.

Community Focus is an automated, cloud-based software program developed by UNC Charlotte and Premier, Inc., as part of a partnership started last year. It will help health systems manage patient data at the community level and make it easier for hospitals to isolate groups to find ways to improve public health.

Dr. James Studnicki is Chair of Health Services Research in the College of Health and Human Services, and the project’s lead developer. He said Community Focus eclipses current systems that rely on static, county-level lists. The program increases hospitals’ ability to analyze the data, set priorities and spend money intelligently.

“For example, males with uncontrolled diabetes are more than 3 times more likely to suffer a preventable lower limb amputation than females. An effective program will understand the preventive implications of these gender differences,” Studnicki said.

Early adopters of the program are praising its effectiveness. Rebecca Sykes, a senior vice president at Mercy Health, Ohio’s largest health system, said its hospitals have seen meaningful improvement.

“Community Focus has significantly reduced the time and effort it takes to accurately identify areas of concern across populations and create outreach programs that allocate resources for people who need them the most.”

The Affordable Care Act requires nonprofit health systems to assess the needs of their communities three times per year to justify their tax-exempt status. Community Focus cleans up and automates what had been a manual collection process, allowing providers to focus on applying the data.

Dr. Studnicki said the software is a result of a collaboration that capitalizes on the strengths of each partner. UNC Charlotte brings research capability and expertise in population health and medical care, while Premier brings a national network of providers and robust technological resources.

“Together, we are capable of producing a product that is better than what either partner could achieve alone,” Studnicki said.

In addition to Mercy Health, two other health systems have signed on to be early users of Community Focus.

The program comes as UNC Charlotte continues its push to lead on Big Data. Dr. Studnicki says the University has “all the essential elements” to be a trailblazer, but success will mean sustained cooperation across academic disciplines. UNC Charlotte is responding to that challenge with campus-wide efforts like the Data Science Initiative.

by: Wills Citty