Best of BI: Parallon Business Solutions consolidates its BI data streams

Key metrics for this healthcare business services provider are now all in one place and available to busy executives via mobile devices.

Running a healthcare business is a complex challenge. It requires administrators to stay up to date on hundreds of performance metrics -- everything from bed occupancy rates and staffing levels to insurance reimbursements.

To quickly make strategic decisions based on accurate and timely information, administrators need a flexible and user-friendly BI tool to keep tabs on daily operations and long-term trends.

In 2011, Parallon Business Solutions, an offshoot of HCA, one of the largest healthcare chains in the U.S., wanted to improve the usefulness and accessibility of the volumes of data stored in its Teradata Patient Accounting data warehouse. The goal was to make it easier for executives to quickly see changes in a wide variety of performance indicators.

Parallon opted to start its BI project with its Business Performance Group, which provides services to HCA and other client hospitals. The group already had a tool that managed 45 reports on key revenue indicators. But the reports were neither sufficiently user-friendly nor timely.

"The executives are very mobile, especially if they're overseeing multiple facilities," says Shannon Dauchot, senior vice president for revenue cycles in Parallon's Business Performance Group. "They want to be able to see their key indicators wherever they are."

So Parallon developers and consultants from Pandera, a BI services company in Tampa, Fla., created a series of dashboards using MicroStrategy, a BI application that pulls data from the data warehouse into cubes, which are miniature, multidimensional databases assembled with data from the main database.

The dashboards provide summary views of a wide swath of data; executives can then drill into that data and pull up more detailed dashboards on specific metrics. To be more useful to business users, each dashboard also provides graphical displays of the data.

"Before, you might have to go to five or six different places to get the information you needed. Now all of the key metrics are centralized," says Michael Taylor, Parallon's BI manager.

Even better, the dashboards can be viewed on iPads, and summary versions can be viewed on iPhones, which many of Parallon's financial executives carry. Other business groups are also getting their own dashboards, says Taylor.

"We have 23 measures in accounts receivable and cash and payment compliance on the dashboards," says Chris Harrison, director of financial analysis and reporting. "Now, in 15 seconds we can get data that would have taken two to three hours to pull."

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Hildreth is a veteran IT writer based in Waltham, Mass. She covers enterprise technologies, from BI and CRM to social media and IT management.

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