Cracking the code of health care data management, this Utah-based startup is changing the way health care organizations of every size are using analytics for better planning, daily operations, and patient care. 

Health Catalyst, a leader in next-generation data, analytics, and improvement, was founded in 2008 by two seasoned health care data architects, Tom Burton and Steve Barlow.

This February, the Utah-based firm achieved unicorn status as a startup when its valuation exceeded the $1 billion mark. UPMC is among the growing number of health care organizations that are both clients and investors in the young firm.

Responding to the EHR revolution

As health care began its march toward electronic records, Burton and Barlow saw an opportunity to replace the typical home-built database used by most hospitals and health systems with an advanced, standards-based health care data warehouse open to all organizations. Their vision: technology that could sift through electronic health record (EHR) data and provide doctors and other decision-makers throughout an organization with the analytics needed to deliver better care while managing and reducing costs.

The pair had more than a vision; they had experience. When working as data architects for a large health care system in Utah, they were charged with building that organization’s EHR database. That experience showed them the potential offered by comprehensive analytics to change the health care industry — and the limitations of proprietary, home-built data systems.

Succeeding where others failed

The company’s goal was to develop a software architecture for the medical data warehouse — a meta-database that aggregates and integrates unstructured data from all the evolving sources that make up a modern health care organization. Health Catalyst’s architecture has succeeded where others — including their own early attempts — failed. Its current design is adaptive, agile, and flexible enough to handle all of a health care organization’s different data types while keeping pace with changes. The Health Catalyst platform is a modern, cloud-based technology that can be implemented in just weeks, instead of months or years.

After investing 10 years and $200 million to develop their solution, Health Catalyst’s products are now being used by over 115 health systems, generating $110 million in sales last year alone. Hospitals use Health Catalyst’s software to link the data housed in siloed databases that track insurance claims, patient satisfaction, and, of course, EHRs. Once that data is linked together, it’s analyzed to provide hospitals with new insights into how their patients are receiving care and how much money they’re spending to do it.

The platform offers a range of solutions, from cost accounting, regulatory reporting, risk management and revenue cycle management to artificial intelligence/trigger-based patient safety risk and surveillance — all designed to help organizations optimize their financial and operational performance while improving the quality of care delivered to patients. Analysis tools include accountable care and financial reporting, benchmarking and comparative analytics, care management and patient relationships, clinical analytics, operations and performance management, patient safety, and services.

Measurable results

Insights gained from these tools are yielding measurable results. In Portland, Oregon, analytics helped John Muir Health cut operating room costs by starting more operations on time. The data also helped reduce patient wait times. In Boston, Partners Healthcare’s Integrated Care Management Program used Health Catalyst analytics and professional services to save $125 per member per month for enrolled patients, and reduced emergency department visits and hospitalization.

Health Catalyst’s impact is not only about cost savings. In fact, some of the most important outcomes realized by organizations using its analytics have been on quality of care. In the past year, Minneapolis-based Allina Health achieved significant reductions in average medication count, with a special focus on decreasing the number of opioids prescribed to patients by 10 percent — totaling 2 million pills. At the same time, Allina trimmed $2,000 in total care cost per patient through pharmacist-led medication therapy management, while also reducing hospital admissions by 12 percent and ED visits by 10 percent.

Using Health Catalyst’s CORUS™ suite of applications to help estimate the cost of care, UPMC was able to reduce the average length of stay for surgical patients by two to three days, see an 81 percent relative reduction in patient-controlled pain management following complex abdominal surgery, and realize a $3 million cost savings and avoidance for surgical patients over two years.

With results like these, Health Catalyst continues to attract the attention of the investment community as well as health care clients and investors like UPMC.