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

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 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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