How to Achieve Better Care Through Better Data

How US Acute Care Solutions’ Chris Corbit uses data to help emergency rooms across the country run more smoothly

Hospital emergency rooms managed by US Acute Care Solutions, based in Canton, Ohio, help patients in desperate need of attention receive care faster than ever because of Chris Corbit. The CMIO has organized the flow of patient and clinician data to streamline the way ERs work in real time.

Corbit joined US Acute Care solutions eight years ago, when the hospital management company was still enjoying strong organic growth thanks to an industry movement to convert patient files into EMRs. For Corbit, that was his main focus at the start.

“A couple years ago, Acute Care Solutions realized that with all the consolidation in healthcare, we had to do something different to keep growing,” he says.

Between 2015 and 2016, US Acute Care Solutions partnered with seven medical groups to help expand its reach to more than five million patients annually at more than 160 sites in twenty-one states. During that period, Corbit’s job evolved along with the company.

“We wanted to use more data to help improve clinical care,” he says. “So, we started working with hospital IT departments to pull data out of the EMRs and put it into a data warehouse. That consists of numerous data points and measuring patient flow, physician workflow, and how clinicians manage patients.”

Meanwhile, Corbit and his team designed and built dashboard interfaces to make that data more accessible for physicians. “We unblind that data to all the physicians,” Corbit explains. “They can log into the dashboard and look at multiple metrics, such as how many CT scans they’re ordering compared to their peers. Just showing this kind of data allows them to have discussions and make better decisions. Simply by the Hawthorne effect, the alteration of behavior due to their awareness of being observed, you see all the physicians start to standardize the way they practice. Then, you can really put in some very good quality programs because problems are being managed the same way.”

In the past, that wasn’t always the case. Physicians have their own work habits and like to do things their way. But Corbit notes that they’re also lifelong learners who like being able to use the data US Acute Care Solutions is now giving them.

“That’s probably been the biggest surprise,” Corbit says. “They all flock to data and use it. Sometimes, you think clinicians just want to do their own thing and think what they do is right, but they want to keep learning.”

Pushback came only from physicians and clinicians who, at first, weren’t sure what Corbit and his team were doing. However, they all got on board once he explained how it can foster collaboration and standardization.

The structure of US Acute Care Solutions also helped move the project along. The company gives equal ownership to all its clinicians, who number close to three thousand. Everyone gathers three times a year to vote on major initiatives, such as Corbit’s data warehousing and distribution initiative.

“When everyone has an equal vote, they’re engaged and want to make sure things are done well,” Corbit says. “We get a lot of good feedback and engaged clinicians who help communicate any messages we’re trying to get out there.”

Even after a majority of the sites were on board with the project, Corbit and his team had challenges. Chief among them were the variabilities in the data itself. Different hospitals use different EMR systems, though the market has consolidated down to four main providers. Still, people enter data differently, even within the same EMR system. As a result, collecting the data is just the beginning.

“We make sure we’re getting the right data by meeting with the hospital system analyst or the person who runs the EMR and one of the clinicians, and going through all of it,” Corbit says. “There are also five validation steps we follow, and we review EMRs monthly to make sure there are no big changes to the way the information is collected.”

Even then, hospitals often lack data that represents what’s going on in the real world. This is particularly vital for the workflow results Corbit is trying to capture.

“In those cases, we identify what is the best time stamp that represents when a physician is going into the room and seeing the patient and when he or she are documenting and ordering,” Corbit says. “So when we report something, it’s fairly standardized across the board.”

Corbit says the data has already helped ER physicians come together and adopt standard practices. Stroke protocol, he notes, is the best example.

“In the past, the staff had to wait for the doctor to come in because one doctor did things one way and another did it differently,” Corbit says. “With everyone doing it the same way, the staff can jump right in and start working on the patient before the doctor arrives. It saves a lot of time.”

The focus of this data dive isn’t to save US Acute Care’s hospital partners money, though Corbit says that has been a nice side effect. The ultimate goal—one that Corbit and his team strive for every day—is simply doing right by the patients.