Software that saves lives

Software that saves lives

BI software helps doctors make smart choices for patients

But challenges still arose, of course. Stalhammar wanted to display several lab results in a single chart, yet those lab results all used different scales. Those differences forced Rylander to find ways to manipulate the code to create accurate, compatible and understandable displays.

It was also a challenge to integrate pictures, which take up a lot of memory, Rylander says. To deal with that, he put in links to pictures, allowing users to call up only the images needed without putting them in the QlikView file itself.

Stalhammar first started using QlikView in 2001. But after he retired in 2007, the project lost momentum -- a fate that can befall many IT initiatives that lack a project champion to lobby for them.

Good data remains key to success

Even before deploying QlikView to analyze data, Dr. Daniel Stalhammar knew what patient information he needed to make critical decisions about treatments.

The problem, however, was getting that information together in one place quickly, because the data resided in various databases as well as on medical instruments, Stalhammar says.

This might seem like a difficult problem, but in reality, the fact that Stalhammar already knew what information he needed was critical not only to his patients, but also to the success of his deployment of business intelligence software.

Forrester Research analyst Boris Evelson says a successful BI initiative starts with building the right data model. "If I have all that right, whatever BI vendor I use becomes a much lower priority," he says.

In fact, in his 2007 report "It's Time to Reinvent Your BI Strategy," Evelson put "Proceed with data governance and data stewardship" at No. 2 on his list of 10 best practices for kicking off a BI effort, just after picking a senior business executive sponsor.

Evelson also wrote, "Most reporting initiatives fail because end users cannot agree on common definitions."

Meanwhile, Stalhammar's colleagues in other departments have expressed interest in the QlikView system but, he says, "the doctors in Sweden have been remarkably slow to adopt this new technology."

There is some movement, however. Dr. Peter Nyberg, chief of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, is following Stalhammar's example and using QlikView to analyze patient data to improve care.

"My interest is to get quick and reliable analysis from a quality system," Nyberg says, explaining that in the past, there have been challenges in connecting the different hospital databases and getting useful analysis from them.

Despite those earlier challenges, Nyberg decided to try QlikView based on Stalhammar's experience.

"Why should hospital personnel take hours or weeks [finding that data]? What they really want is to have the results," Nyberg says.

Boris Evelson, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., says he's not surprised by the doctors' use of QlikView. BI tools are reaching into every market segment, Evelson says, because they not only help improve productivity and efficiency, but also help organizations to remain competitive.

"Business intelligence is definitely exploding in every market segment," he says, "because intelligence is the main competitive differentiator these days."

Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in the US. Contact her at

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