Health & Life Sciences / Modern BI

Strategic Power BI Engagement Enables Data Driven Healthcare Gains


Company Overview

When a well-known Southeastern U.S. surgeon and community health champion advocated for a public hospital over 100 years ago, they likely had no idea it would grow to be one of its region’s largest health systems. Built on a foundation of excellence in care, the regional health provider’s more than 700 physicians and 9,000 employees offer broad-ranging services to people across two states. Though it is a government subdivision of the state in which it was founded, the health system is self-funded – meaning it receives no tax dollars. It must continually seek innovative ways to deliver superior healthcare while minimizing costs.

The Challenge

As with many health systems, our client had large of amounts of data that they were collecting and analyzing. These included patient, practitioner, administrative, logistic, and financial data, among others. To leverage the data for long-term health care success, staff within the health system were already using Power BI Desktop to shape and visualize data to give themselves insight into the health of both their organization and the patients they served.

“Our client had lots of data and analysis happening” explains Katy Ghormley, BlueGranite consultant for Modern Business Intelligence. “But for all their effort, they were finding that their analysts were producing reports with competing views of the truth for how the organization and its doctors and patients were doing.”

Delivering fast, accurate data to stakeholders – including C-level decision-makers, physicians, and various business unit report users – is key to long-term healthcare success. To address this issue, the organization’s enterprise intelligence team sought to cultivate a systemwide data-driven culture with a single source of truth for key data.

The Solution

“It is true that we needed analysts to operate differently in order to meet this challenge” continues Katy. “But that didn’t mean they had to stop creating reports and visuals that were most meaningful for their individual areas using the self-service capabilities of Power BI. Instead, they just needed to use the native capabilities of Power BI to enable reuse of common key data sets so that they could arrive at the same answer every time, regardless of how a data point was used in a specific visual or report. That’s where BlueGranite was able to help.”

First, BlueGranite sought to understand what it would take to address the challenge by digging deeper into the organization’s use of Power BI for reporting and analysis. “In speaking with administrators and analysts in different business areas, we found some underlying factors were contributing to the current situation that would need to be addressed before the main challenge could be solved” recounts Katy. “We found many points of concern with how Power BI had been managed as the number of users had grown over time. A well-managed modern business intelligence platform is a key component of a healthy data estate.”

Building on a Firm Foundation

After careful consideration, the healthcare system’s enterprise intelligence group selected BlueGranite’s Catalyst Framework for Power BI Adoption to quickly address the underlying platform management issues that were contributing to their primary issue. The Catalyst-driven approach defines processes and policies around Power BI tailored to different organizations and their specific needs. It empowers the organizations adopting it, and ensures a secure, well-designed, user-enabled platform.

“Once we were able to define an approach supporting the goals of accurate self-service analysis and distribution of centrally-created content, the team was ready and eager to solidify their Power BI management foundation” recalls Katy. “They could see how a firm foundation based on proven governance practices could propel their analysts toward success. We were amazed how quickly they grasped the concepts and stood ready to apply them to their environment.”



BlueGranite guided the team’s governance process improvement effort in three main areas:

1 – Adoption Framework: Collaborating with business units, IT, and enterprise intelligence, four guides were created – Governance, Deployment, Security, and Gateway Administration – that served as foundational Power BI pillars to direct adoption and steer future best practices. Contents included a framework for a well-secured deployment defining the people and processes required for solutions meeting internal data governance and quality standards, an outline of user and administrator roles and responsibilities across the platform, and technical and auxiliary considerations for the On-Premises Data Gateway.

2 – Solution Design and Best Practices: The team worked to convert an existing data model to adhere to best practices in dimensional modeling. Also, several key measures were refactored to improve accuracy and efficiency. The team shared these best practices with analysts across the organization to further enhance team skills and ensure future modeling successes.

3 – Power BI Monitoring and Auditing: Understanding who is using the system and what assets they are leveraging allows for cultivation of valuable data and reports shared across the enterprise. It also is a key requirement to meet compliance standards that require providing details regarding who accessed which data, and when. Tracking export, distribution, and sharing activities is also part of data governance and security standards. The team deployed a monitoring and auditing solution designed to achieve these requirements and to maximize return on investment of the Power BI modern business intelligence platform.

“Many organizations chip away at Power BI platform management as they try to keep up with user demand for more data and new platform features that are added every month” explains Eric Wozniak, VP for Industry - Healthcare at BlueGranite. “We have found that a comprehensive approach to platform management is a top enabler for healthcare analysts’ success, often at much lower overall effort and cost than a piecemeal approach. That’s why we have captured our best experiences into a BlueGranite Catalyst that helps our clients to make it so much easier to adopt a comprehensive approach”.

One Version of Truth

“Once we set the team on a path to a solid foundation for Power BI platform management, we were quickly able to make progress toward addressing the main challenge” explained Katy. “It was much easier once we had a common understanding between us of the platform and its capabilities”.

The key to fostering a single version of truth was first to establish a place where a high quality, feature-rich, single version of the data could live, and second to provide controlled access to the data to everyone who needed it.

BlueGranite first guided the team to draw a distinction between “data modeling” and “report design.” The former would focus on creating high quality, feature-rich datasets that would enable analysts to readily use the data as a starting point for their own custom reports tailored to their individual areas’ needs while promoting a single version of the facts through the common datasets.

“Our goal was to create a desirable destination for data – a data marketplace if you will – for analysts” explained Katy. “Our vision was that if the data sets were relevant, accurate, and structured for easy usage, then analysts would eagerly use them rather than creating and supporting their own divergent versions of the data.”

To support the common datasets, BlueGranite guided the team through design workshops to lay out a framework of data and reporting workspaces that would host the data sets published by data modelers and serve them up to analysts. The framework was overlaid with a robust role-based security access model that would assure that only authorized users would have access to the common data sets.

“We all agreed, that it was important not to create unnecessary barriers to users’ ability to access the common data. We wanted to promote consistency within reports and analyses” recounted Olya Musokhranova, BlueGranite consultant for Modern Business Intelligence with emphasis on monitoring, auditing, and security. “But at the same time we did need to make sure that access was secure and provided to only those analysts with appropriate authority. It was equally important to make sure that we had processes in place to assure that the common data was governed and maintained over time and remained up to date and useful for insights.”

To complete the implementation, it was important to assure that analysts use of the common datasets would preserve information privacy throughout. In its processing, Power BI interactive reports accept filters and drill paths from users to help them focus on vital information. Where reports contain sensitive information, it is necessary to identify areas where sensitive data values may be cached in system processes and secure the information there also.

“We paid attention to back-end security, compliance and privacy concerns related to sensitive data” explained Olya. “In certain scenarios, sensitive data could appear in the queries generated by Power BI reports for completely legitimate purposes, and we needed to ensure that the sensitive data was appropriately secured via an auditing process and such queries saved for processing, auditing, and monitoring.”


The Results

In a very short time, BlueGranite was able to help this health organization to realize its objectives for managing its data and fostering more effective data analysis. Success required improved management of the Power BI platform which was already in widespread use and then establishing a framework within the platform to support distinct roles of data modelers and report designers.

The healthcare system’s approach for modern business intelligence is rapidly gaining traction, with an expected following of nearly 700 Power BI data modelers, report designers, and data/analytics consumers. The proof of success is in the metrics gleaned from Power BI platform monitoring data. Actively used workspaces across multiple business units continue to increase, as do the apps deployed from workspaces across multiple business units. Report views from both corporate and self-service sources also continue to rise.

The expert deployment of this well-governed solution ensures maximum return on investment. As skilled data modelers continue creating high quality, feature-rich Power BI datasets, analysts across the organization can design actionable reports to gain operational insights and improve health care delivery.

Interested in learning more about how BlueGranite accelerates Power BI Deployment and Adoption? Contact us today.


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