Are Dashboards an “Elegant” BI Solution for Healthcare?

by Trevor Strome on March 1, 2010

In a relatively recent article on (, Scott Wanless outlines the qualities of “elegant” healthcare business intelligence solutions. According to Wanless, an applications of business intelligence to the healthcare healthcare domain can be considered elegant if it:

  • Adds value at any time – immediately and in the future.
  • Adds value in any economy – recession or expansion
  • Adds value at any level of the organizations – tactically and strategically
  • Applies to any size healthcare organization – large or small
  • Applies to any type of healthcare organization – hospitals, clinics, labs, long-term care, etc.
  • Is visible and valuable across the organization – to the chief medical officer, chief financial officer, chief operating officer, et al.

These are important criteria that designers of dashboards for use in healthcare environments must consider. For example, are the metrics and indicators that are displayed on a dashboard truly adding value to an organization – do they provide insight into what actions to take to address any issues arising? Furthermore, indicators that are valuable “today” may not be in several months or years. As the nature of the healthcare industry constantly changes, so too must the metrics being displayed in order to stay relevant. This is especially so when economic conditions change.

The Value of BI Dashboards for Healthcare

Healthcare dashboards provide immense value across all levels of the organization. Keep in mind, though, that the data that is relevant to the executive-level for strategizing is different than what front-line staff and managers need to know for efficient day-to-day operation of individual departments, units, or services. In addition, healthcare organizations of all types are adopting dashboards as an effective way to disseminate information to managers and staff.

One of the key tenets of Lean and other process improvement methodologies is visibility and transparency. As one of the criteria of an “elegant” BI solution for healthcare, visibility and transparency of performance data is crucial to reducing barriers within units, and between units, to obtain optimal performance. Dashboards can be used to provide near real-time operation data to front-line and managers staff as well as C-level executives to monitor performance trends over time and to monitor progress towards performance goals.

Based on these criteria, dashboards can be considered an elegant application of BI technology to healthcare. But simply posting random data on a dashboard screen does not add value, and may only add confusion. Designers of healthcare dashboards should carefully consider these requirements as they choose which metrics to display, and which visualization approaches with which to display them.

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