Taking the Moneyball Approach to Healthcare with ArborMetrix

It’s clear, despite pre-election uncertainty, that accurate data will be crucial to the future of American healthcare. The name of the game will soon be metrics, as in: If you don’t meet these benchmarks, we’re not going to pay you. Having the best, most up-to-date data not only helps doctors improve care, but it also helps hospitals and clinics run leaner operations. And what Ann Arbor, MI-based startup ArborMetrix is doing, says new CEO Brent Furst, is filtering the noise out of a statistical approach to healthcare.

“Here’s how you did it in 2011,” Furst says. “A surgeon was handed a binder with a care plan. First of all, the data was a year old. And if you tried to change the care plan, you had to wait a year for results.”

ArborMetrix does away with those inefficiencies, Furst explains, by taking what he calls the Moneyball approach to healthcare. (In case you haven’t seen it, Moneyball is the 2011 film where Brad Pitt played Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team, who used an analytical, statistical method called sabermetrics to put together a competitive squad despite having a budget that was a fraction of the amount available to champion teams.) “There have been a lot of analytics databases trying to gauge clinical effectiveness,” Furst adds. “But the data is all over the place and is often stale by the time it’s massaged. We’re using cloud-based software to provide real-time data to improve patient care and cost-effectiveness.”

Furst says ArborMetrix is working with Blue Cross Blue Shield and 70 hospitals to translate the contents of those surgical binders into actionable data on a graphical dashboard. He envisions that the company’s main clients will be big health care systems and insurance plans. “The dashboard is timely and it gives an immediate view,” he says. “And it takes a minute and a half instead of hours and hours.”

ArborMetrix brought Furst on board earlier this summer after spending 2010 “morphing” and then launching as a cloud-based service last year. The company,which is spun out of technology developed at the University of Michigan and Dartmouth, is backed by Ann Arbor’s Arboretum Ventures and also received funding from the Michigan Venture Capital Association for its CEO search. ArborMetrix currently has 21 employees.

Furst, who has been in IT for 22 years and spent a decade at Covisint, says the company is growing quickly. It plans to seek another round of funding in mid-2013 while it continues to develop and refine its dashboard software. “The timing couldn’t be better,” he notes. “Data analytics will be the anchor tenant in the tapestry of healthcare to come.”

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