Every time you interact with the health care system, providers document these interactions in an electronic medical record. That process generates real-world health data. The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute derives insights to improve health care at both the individual and population level from that data – without, of course, compromising confidential patient information.

With the expanded use of electronic health records, the U.S. health care system collects dozens of terabytes of data every year. The UPMC system alone has over 10 terabytes of patient data across its care sites. The question is: How can these data be used in a transparent way to benefit the patients we treat?

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Basics Of Analytics

“Health care analytics is a method of systematic data analysis,” says Suresh Mulukutla, MD, an interventional cardiologist and director of analytics at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute. “We use existing data about the patients we care for on a routine basis to improve how we manage patients across the health system.”

In the past two years, about 1.8 million individuals have interacted with the UPMC health system. During those encounters, people are prescribed medication, have surgery, receive lifestyle guidance, undergo physical therapy, or receive a host of other medical recommendations. With the proper tools and expertise, pulling together that information helps UPMC experts provide personalized, proactive care.

How Analytics Improve Care

Under the leadership of Samir Saba, MD, co-director, UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute; Ibrahim Sultan, MD, director, Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease; Michael Mathier, MD, clinical director, UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute; and Sandeep Jain, MD, director, Center for Atrial Fibrillation, the UPMC heart health experts have taken a leading role in applying analytics to specific outcomes.

For example, in close collaboration with these leaders and based on details of outcomes from many patients, when an individual with atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, or valvular heart disease comes to UPMC, a doctor can predict their risk of negative outcomes.

“Analytics allow us to home in on people who are more likely to be hospitalized or even die from their condition,” say Dr. Mulukutla, who sees patients in Cranberry, McCandless, Moon, Sewickley, and Oakland. “We are able to pay special attention to make sure they’re following their treatment plan and receiving the best advice to prevent adverse outcomes.”

The analytics also let doctors know which patients are at higher risk of being readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. Reducing hospital readmittance rates has been an effort across the UPMC system under the leadership of Oscar Marroquin, MD, UPMC chief health care data and analytics officer.

“With analytics, we’re able to efficiently allocate our resources to patients with the highest need,” Dr. Mulukutla says. “For example, we make sure they have a follow up appointment with a doctor within seven days. This has reduced the number of patients who get readmitted to the hospital.”

How To Use Data

Many hospitals and health care systems collect data — but using it in a meaningful way is what sets UPMC apart.

“Where UPMC has really made our mark is in making investments to maximize the power of the data that exists,” says Dr. Mulukutla. “It’s one thing to have the data; it’s another to know how to visualize it, make sense of it, and use it on behalf of the patients we treat.”

Effectively using data requires a close relationship between health care and information technology teams. UPMC’s Office of Clinical Analytics includes data engineers, programmers, IT infrastructure architects, biostatisticians, and other professionals. Health care professionals request information they’d like to visualize and IT professionals build the dashboards.

This partnership means doctors have powerful new tools to look at medical care by groups or individuals. Data analytics allow UPMC heart specialists to pinpoint geographic regions that may need more health care resources. Likewise, data can also personalize care at an individual level, identifying people at risk of heart problems and connecting them with preventive services.

“We are beginning to start initiatives that help identify patients through our data who could be better treated for underlying cardiac issues like heart failure, coronary artery disease, and atrial fibrillation and then create mechanisms whereby we can discuss with patients how to optimize their care.” Dr. Mulukutla says. “This is truly a transformative moment in the delivery of health care.”

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute leads the way in applying analytics to people with heart issues, but UPMC has made investments to expand use to other specialties. UPMC continues to look at new ways to reach patients. Working closely with A.J. Conrad Smith, MD, associate chief of cardiology for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, we aim to use analytics to address racial disparities, to match patients with follow up care in their areas, and to reach people at high risk of heart disease early.

Data analytics are one more tool that allows UPMC heart health experts to apply the wealth of treatment tools available to the right patients at the right time.


About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.