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Software that saves lives

Mary K. Patt | Aug. 12, 2008
Dr. Daniel Stålhammar, a neurosurgeon for 40 years, picked business intelligence software to improve patient outcomes and ultimately save lives.

FRAMINGHAM, 11 AUGUST 2008 - The statistics were telling: 15% to 20% of neurosurgery patients developed infections in the drains that neurosurgeons implanted to draw away fluids, a complication that not only threatened lives, but also led to hundreds of thousands of dollars in treatment costs annually.

Dr. Daniel Stålhammar, a neurosurgeon for 40 years, believed his hospital, Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden, could do better. He turned to computers for help.

That may not be surprising, but his choice of IT tools is: Stålhammar picked business intelligence software to improve patient outcomes and ultimately save lives.

"I needed to handle large databases and have tools to make proper decisions on which patients were to be selected for specialized and very expensive care," he says.

Stålhammar used QlikTech International AB's QlikView to analyze multiple databases containing patient information against established medical measurements and likely outcomes. This tool has helped the hospital reduce its rate of medical complications, sparing patients any additional pain and problems and eliminating the need for many costly tests and treatments.

"Certainly, [this accomplishment] would be possible without technology, but that would take a lot of work [from] several people working continuously. That costs a lot, and it is very difficult to keep performance 24 hours a day on the highest level. There will be mistakes, misunderstandings, etc., resulting in repeated failures," says Stålhammar. "By automatic alerts provided by QlikView, this will simply not happen."

This innovative use of QlikView software earned QlikTech International and Stålhammar's project a victory in the Business & Related Services category in the Computerworld Honors Program.

To be sure, Stålhammar was no stranger to using software prior to implementing the BI application. He had used other IT tools, such as Excel, to help sort and analyze data. And he had worked on computerizing patient records at his hospital.

Such experiences, he says, allowed him to recognize how computers could help doctors make critical decisions by providing them with analysis of information that they just couldn't access quickly enough through manual systems. And when he saw another hospital using QlikView, he saw the possibilities that this particular application could bring to his own medical work.

"I understood how extremely fast they could make searches, and how they could combine all data in an illustrated way," he says.

For Stålhammar, the choice made sense, even though his hospital's administration used other BI applications for analyzing data. QlikView seemed to work faster than other systems, he says, and that was important, since the information is needed to make quick, informed decisions on patient care. Plus, QlikView presented information in a visual fashion that made it easy to see associations between data.


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