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BI Case Study: Dashboards for Doctors
Business Intelligence Journal

by Wayne EckersonMonday, July 9, 2007

By Stephen Swoyer

Jonathan Rothman knows a thing or two about doing BI on a budget. As the business intelligence guru for healthcare services provider Emergency Medical Associates (EMA), Rothman, the company’s director of data management, has tapped an application framework from Business Objects SA to deliver reporting, analysis, and—as of June, 2004—dashboard services to hospital administrators, doctors, and other healthcare professionals. Best of all, Rothman was able to implement EMA’s cutting-edge analytic dashboards in just over three months.

The analytic dashboard is often positioned as the must-have accessory of the savvy corporate executive, but as EMA’s success demonstrates, users at every level of an organization can benefit from dashboard-like presentations, too. More to the point, Rothman says, dashboards aren’t just for traditional consumers anymore: Research scientists, civil engineers and even doctors, nurses, and healthcare administrators need dashboards too.

In spite of EMA’s dashboard success, Rothman believes there’s still room for improvement—if Business Objects does its part, that is. EMA is also a user of Crystal Reports, an operational reporting solution Business Objects acquired in July 2003. In fact, much of the data that’s eventually fed into EMA’s data warehouse originates in Crystal repositories deployed at more than a dozen customer sites. Right now, Rothman uses an ETL solution to extract data from Crystal and load it into its Oracle database. With the enhanced integration Business Objects has enabled between Crystal and its own BI products, however, Rothman will be able to push data directly from Crystal out to his users.

Why a Dashboard?

Digital dashboards provide an at-a-glance view—by means of graphs, charts, gauges, speedometers, or any other instantly understood mechanism—of several predefined metrics. The idea, of course, is that the dashboard interface helps to mask the complexity of the underlying business analytic infrastructure by displaying the results of an ad hoc query or report—or just about any other kind of analysis, for that matter—in the context of an easily digestible view. Worried about whether you’re going to make your sales goals for the current quarter? If you have a dashboard on your desktop—perhaps one outfitted with a speedometer-like display, one glance and you'll know the answer. If you’re in the red, it's time to seriously motivate your sales managers; the yellow zone suggests you'll need firm prodding, and green means that you can breath a sigh of relief (at least for now).

That’s a typical usage scenario in a for profit, sales-driven organization. So why is it that EMA—a physician owned, privately held, not-for-profit organization with 16 (mostly) not-for- profit clients in New Jersey and New York—invested so heavily in a dashboard infrastructure?

As it turns out, Rothman argues, dashboards are well-suited to the frenetic pace of emergency department (ED) operations. “The dashboard is really the best [solution] for the ED. The speedometers are great for quick analysis of data, because once you understand the metric, and then once you understand from the end user what their targets and thresholds are, then all they essentially have to do is look at metrics and then look for something red,” he explains.

This article excerpt appears courtesy of TDWI and originally appeared in TDWI’s Business Intelligence Journal, a Member only publication. To learn more about Membership and how to access additional articles please visit www.tdwi.org.

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