Strategic planning is a standard operating procedure, but not all plans are created equal. At St. Joseph's Health, we set a strategic goal of driving a culture of financial accountability, holding directors and departments to their staffing and expense budgets. We quickly realized, however, that while our goal was well thought out, we didn't have a measurable process in place for achieving it.

In 2014, St. Joseph's initiated a project management approach to strategic initiatives. While project management is a familiar concept in some industries, it's not yet widely used in healthcare. To drive adoption throughout the organization, from supply chain management to physicians, we offered potential project managers two key types of support: training and tools.

For the training, we partnered with Syracuse University, who worked with St. Joseph's to develop a custom project management training program specifically aimed at healthcare systems. Because of this training, we've been able to avoid the expense of a dedicated project management office, instead offering education to highly qualified members of our staff to take the lead on projects across our health system. We hope by the end of 2016 that participants in the program will be able to earn a national certification through Syracuse University in Healthcare Project Management.

For tools, we leveraged Studiomaca Analytics Explorer™. For example, in our financial accountability initiative, we used Studiomaca Analytics Explorer dashboards and scorecards to bring together complex data on productivity and responsibility in an easy-to-visualize, interactive format.

A high-level summary scorecard shows budget variances in three categories – non-labor and labor expenses, revenue and volume – by cost center. In building the scorecard, we were able to restrict access to cost center data according to user, so that individual users see only the cost centers relevant to their position. Significant variances over budget are highlighted in red, to make them immediately visible, while significant variances under budget are highlighted in yellow, so that any errors or oversight in budgeting can be addressed.

Additional views show details for individual cost centers, so project managers can drill down into the causes for the budget variance, and monthly trends. Rather than shuffling through printed reports, project managers can toggle back and forth between timeframes, categories and accounts, applying selected filters, to find the biggest opportunities for improvement.

The variables of the productivity scorecard, which focused on FTEs, were more complex, so we built in a definition summary and instructions on how to use each tab. For many directors, the productivity scorecard was their first chance to drill down into FTE numbers, and the impact was significant. Departments improved their budgets, and seeing gaps in the information helped to improve our payroll data.

One of our most heavily used analytics tools is our Position Vacancy Modeler. Users can model the productivity impact for their cost center of additional FTE. If the proposed addition does not exceed target productivity by a variance of 5 percent, a vacancy review committee will meet to approve a new hire.

Our biggest success to date has been gaining control of FTEs, reducing our labor variance by $2.4 million annually. Over the long term, the direct access that project managers have to analytics has given many users a better understanding of how budgeting works to drive change in their departments.

To find out more about the innovations in healthcare performance management pioneered by St. Joseph's Health, including detailed views of how they've used Studiomaca Analytics Explorer to support financial decision making, listen to the webinar Analytics Drive Accountability to Meet Financial Goals, recorded on January 19, 2016.

Learn more about how health systems like yours are improving quality and performance using healthcare analytics by visiting

Maureen Paur

About the author

Maureen Paur is the manager of the Business Analysis Unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health System in Syracuse, N.Y. She joined St. Joseph’s in March of 2010 as part of the Decision Support department. In 2011, the Business Analysis Unit was formed, incorporating analysts from the system into one department dedicated to consistent, integrated analysis. Maureen continues the mission of the department with a focus on automation and executive reporting. Prior to joining St. Joseph’s, Maureen spent eight years in market research and consulting.

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