Professor Philip Dean is Head of the Department of Pharmacy and Quality Control Laboratory Services at the North Tees and Hartlepool National Health Services Trust in the United Kingdom, which provides hospital-based and community-based healthcare services and screenings to a population of about 400,000. He needed to make sense of an ever-increasing amount of information: The clinical use of drugs had to be tracked, of course, as did the costs associated with them. But Prof. Dean also sought data on the efficacy of treatment and shared this information with clinical and financial staff at North Tees.
The information that Prof. Dean used was an on-premises clinical intelligence system, maintained by Ascribe, a Microsoft partner with gold competency in business intelligence. The analyses of that data were created with Crystal Reports software, which Prof. Dean had been using for years and was happy with. As he now says, he didn’t know what he was missing. For example, it hadn’t occurred to him that he should have been able to include external data sets in his analyses. Such data sets would have been useful to complement and help explain internal trends, as well as to provide benchmarks for comparison with those trends. Nor did Prof. Dean realize he might have been able to explore his data in highly flexible ways in real time and to use visualization tools that made insights more intuitive and persuasive.
Ascribe proposed a new BI system for its solution, the discussion quickly came to touch on these possibilities. Developers took an extract of North Tees data and imported it into a Power Pivot model hosted in the Office 365 cloud. They built the model in a day, compared to the five days it would have taken without Power BI. Using Power Query, they identified other data sets of interest to Prof. Dean and his colleagues, such as publicly available data on the activity of general practitioners, and integrated that data into the Power Pivot model. In production, Prof. Dean and his colleagues would likely use Power Query directly to identify and access third-party data of interest to them.
Prof. Dean used Power BI through an Ascribe application for Windows 8, running on a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet, which made it possible for him to work with the data without having to be at his desktop PC. He correlated independent weather data with his institution’s own data to identify the impact of inclement weather on the frequency of respiratory disease, and further integrated treatment data to understand which drugs were being prescribed and how prescription patterns varied by locality. With Power View, he created several graphs and clustered them on a single screen for simultaneous viewing, compared to the single graph per screen that he often found difficult to create previously. With Power Map, he visualized data on district maps and zoomed in and around the data to gain various levels of insight.
Prof. Dean now knows what he was missing with his previous analysis software. He sees Power BI and Ascribe making it possible for North Tees and its Department of Pharmacy to undertake virtually unlimited analyses with great visual impact, immediacy, and low cost. As Prof. Dean says, “Power BI is far more visual than the tools we’ve been using and has more impact.”
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