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This surgeon broke down data silos to spot hospital inefficiencies — and created a startup in the process

4:00 pm by | 6 Comments

As a surgeon working in a hospital, Dr. Conor Delaney experienced the big data problem present in so many hospitals today. Massive amounts of useful data was being processed and stored by the hospital, but it was being processed and stored in separate silos that don’t communicate with each other.

He knew there had to be a way to visualize that data comprehensively, to get a better look at what was driving costs in the operating room and what factors were associated with patient readmissions. So Delaney, now the chief of the division of colorectal surgery at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, took it upon himself to find a way to do that.

Over the past five years he’s collected more than $450,000 in grants from the Ohio Savings Foundation, the Cleveland Foundation and, most recently, the Lorain County Community College Foundation’s Innovation Fund to develop a software program that’s used by department chairs, physicians and administrators throughout the hospital system.


It helped his department discover, for example, that a patient’s length of stay was reduced 30 percent if a particular kind of nerve block was used during an operation. It also revealed that robotic surgery was costing an average of $3,000 more than traditional surgeries without significantly changing outcomes.

Now, that platform is serving as the roots of a new company called Socrates Analytics, which was formed in collaboration with Rea.ch Ventures in early 2012 and is hoping it can provide similar cost-saving insights to other health systems.

Socrates Analytics automates the collection of information stored across a number of data systems to allow hospitals to capture entire episodes of patient care. Billing, administrative and operating room data, for example, can be presented in such a way that can help them understand what they’re doing efficiently and what might be causing inefficiencies.

For example, health systems can aggregate data around how much the same operation costs over a set of patients, and how long those patients stay at the hospital afterward. By doing that, they can identify episodes of care that are particularly expensive or require long hospital stays, and dig further into those episodes to determine optimal care pathways. Or they can compile data for a certain surgeon to enable peer-to-peer comparisons.

As health systems continue to implement electronic medical records and look to reduce readmissions, the demand for data tools has spiked. In a recent market research report, MarketsandMarkets pegged the value of the healthcare analytics market at $3.7 billion and estimated it would grow to more than $10 billion within five years. But a fast-growing market means there will likely be more competition emerging and the Socrates Analytics team knows it needs to move quickly.

It’s currently seeking investment to move forward on the most immediate goal: getting the software into more small and medium hospitals, plus one or two large hospitals. For now, it’s a software tool that’s run inside the four walls of a hospital, but eventually, Delaney said, it will likely also move into the cloud to accommodate different systems’ preferences. “This really fits into where healthcare is going,” he said.

[Photos from Flickr user SarahMcD and University Hospitals]

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Deanna Pogorelc

By Deanna Pogorelc MedCity News

Deanna Pogorelc is a Cleveland-based reporter who writes obsessively about life science startups across the country, looking to technology transfer offices, startup incubators and investment funds to see what’s next in healthcare. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University and previously covered business and education for a northeast Indiana newspaper.
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Nate Scarritt
Nate Scarritt

Sounds like what my 15K employee global company, Cerner, does....


This is old news. There are a number of software companies that sell tools like this. Additionally, a good analyst would already be providing this information. I think the good doctor's problem was that the executive and administration teams were not necessarily providing this information to the medical staffing directly. Rather, the senior leadership would make recommendations based on the data provided from the analysts.

Veronica Combs
Veronica Combs moderator

Welcome to healthcare where this is not old news. Somehow the silos are worse here. Without the shift to pay for performance, I don't know how long it would have taken the industry to use this standard operating procudure.


The Socrates Analytics web site does not seem to be functioning (the links to the right). Not a good sign. LOL.

Veronica Combs
Veronica Combs moderator

 @Guest_1  They are working now. Try again. Hopefully it was a momentarily glitch.


Dear Leaders,

You all know that concerns for the medical errors is one of the major problems in the healthcare industries. However, addressing this issues to higher authorities is even a bigger problem for the employees because it results in termination of the employee who dares to be out spoken regarding the concerns. It does not mater whether this type of employees follow the chain of command and diplomatic communication skills or not. As soon as higher administration authorities feels threaten in any shape or form, the employee in question is severly punished, demoted, or terminated. Therefore, most of the employees will not even dare to suggest the way to reduce the errors or apply the coaching and treaining system to improve the quality of the medical and healthcare services. Employees rather come to work earn a paycheck by punching in time and leaving on time than to be a confident and competent employees. Tendancies to keep all mistakes and flaws in healthcare is increased to the point that most employers of the healthcare, especially in the rural hospitals and healthcare system that they prefer to hire and maintain substandards of employees then qualified competent employees that can make a difference in healthcare system by reducing medical errors, reducing cost, and increasing productivity. It is shame that many of the hospitals are moving towards least of amount of turned-around-time than provision of quality services to the patients by listening and understanding the complains and manner of treatments being served to the patients.

Dr. Prkh