Using Data to Improve Healthcare

Posted on November 07, 2017

The World Health Organization reports that heart failure and related cardiovascular conditions are the number one global cause of death and the most expensive condition to treat in the United States.

Dr. Rahul Singh, associate professor in the Department of Information Systems and Supply Chain Management, has spent the past three years conducting two research projects that apply advanced data analytics methods to measure patient characteristics and their impact on care and expenditures. His goal is to identify approaches to patient care that decrease costs and increase quality. As part of a parallel project, he is analyzing data to examine the characteristics of “high utilizers,” which typically include vulnerable populations with complex social components, multiple behavioral health needs, and various chronic conditions.

With the assistance of doctoral students, masters-level students, co-authors, and collaborators from academia and industry, Singh pulls from large volumes of claims data from North Carolina’s state health plans as well as other public and private sources for clinical and related data. “Managing and organizing data is a very significant and time-consuming aspect of this work,” says Singh, who juggles research with teaching. “I try to keep research days separate from my teaching days so that I can focus on―and meet the demands of both. Working with masters and doctoral students where research is both the objective and outcome of the teaching makes it a little easier.”

Seed money procured for the research by Bryan School Dean Dr. McRae Banks and former Executive-in-Residence Dr. Kathy Loyd provided support for data acquisition, funding for doctoral students, and financial backing for research presentations and collaboration development.

“We have built some models and evaluated the impact of transitional care clinics in regional hospitals and the results are very encouraging,” Singh explains. Transitional care is the coordination and continuity of healthcare during a movement from one healthcare setting to either another facility or to the patient’s home. “We presented these findings in 2015 at the Production and Operation Management (POMS) Conference at Indiana University and at the North Carolina Healthcare Information and Communication Alliance (NCHICA) Annual Conference in Pinehurst.”

His team is currently preparing manuscripts on its findings which are targeted for publication in elite healthcare IT and operations management journals. “Our research informs health analytics and operations managers in health systems and studies the impact of transitional care programs in two hospitals over a six-year period―one with a transitional care program and one without,” says Singh. Through difference-in-differences analysis, Singh and Dr. Tala Mirzaei from Florida International University investigate how transitional care influences re-admissions and emergency room visits among patients with chronic heart failure, while accounting for diversity in patient types through the use of clustering methods that identify the differential impact of transitional care on patients with various comorbidities.

“Ultimately, we are looking at the impact of interventions to reduce costs and manage the quality of care delivered,” says Singh. “This is a primary and complex problem that healthcare providers engage in solving every day. Our results indicate that transitional care programs positively impact quality of care for heart failure patients. Our research informs healthcare professionals regarding effective interventions that could save the lives of those patients.”



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