Episode 9: Embracing the New Importance of Data and Analytics

Eric Thrailkill in How I Transformed This

Eric Thrailkill, Senior Vice President for Business Intelligence and Analytics at Envision Healthcare, looks to a future where technology can help companies use data like never before. 

The healthcare industry has come a long way in its capacity to store and analyze data, and Eric Thrailkill thinks the future looks bright for the industry. 

As Senior Vice President for Business and Analytics at Envision Healthcare, Thrailkill sees firsthand how pairing data with innovative technology can transform the way people provide and receive healthcare.

In this episode of How I Transformed This, Virsys12 founder and CEO Tammy Hawes and her co-host Clark Buckner sat down with Thrailkill to hear about his work at Envision and his unique perspective on Nashville’s role in the industry.

Increasingly Accessible Analytics

In the midst of a major industry transformation, Thrailkill points to the ability to process large amounts of data as one of the main factors that will shape the future. 

Though healthcare companies have always possessed large amounts of data, they’ve traditionally lacked the technology to process and apply it. But this is finally starting to change, Thrailkill said.

He traces this shift back to two key events in American policy: George Bush’s creation of the office of National Coordinator in 2004, and Barack Obama’s establishment of grants to help implement electronic health records in 2009. 

“The last two administrations are both enabling more innovation to occur in the free marketplace,” he explained.

Additionally, new technology has an increased capacity to pull in and analyze data from a broad range of outside sources. Programs like Salesforce’s robotic process automation can analyze data to find patterns, and self-correcting electronic medical records make it easier for clinicians to provide informed care. 

And Thrailkill doesn’t believe it will stop there. He imagines a future where patients can access better, more personalized care through their own mobile technology. 

“We’re just at a whole new world around research and really providing personalized care,” he said. “When we get to the point where we can extend that through mobility and iPad/iOs devices/Android devices, where individuals are taken a much more active role in their health versus their healthcare, then it will really be exciting.”

How Data Makes a Difference

At Envision, Thrailkill already sees how better analysis of data can have a direct impact on care.

An industry leader in GI care, Envision uses a Salesforce platform called Wave Analytics to help interpret the data around colon cancer screenings. 

In the U.S., only 63 percent of age-eligible Americans are screened for colon cancer, but Envision is working to change that, Thrailkill shared. By analyzing data like average screening age and the impact of social determinants, the company can understand the barriers to getting screened and work to provide greater access to communities that aren’t receiving this care when they should. 

“I think we’re all looking for the time and place in history when the role of data and analytics could really make a difference on the care that’s being provided today — [to] provide more access to care, reduce the cost of care and improve quality and safety. That is absolutely what we’re excited about at Envision.”

As he looks forward to a future where analytics will play an even larger role, Thrailkill expects healthcare companies will learn to use biometric data, genetic data and more to better understand and care for individual patients.

“Recent studies said if you really want to provide health to the whole person, only about 8 percent of that data actually lives in an electronic health record,” he explained. “With these large computing capabilities, the ability to research, to develop personalized treatment plans for the individual instead of a population of people, exists. And that’s what’s really exciting today.”

Strengthening the Nashville Ecosystem

Outside of his work at Envision, Thrailkill also serves as president of Tennessee’s Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) chapter.

He’s convinced that Nashville has an important role to play in the nation’s healthcare industry, and he’s working to create a more cohesive ecosystem for the city’s 900 healthcare companies, similar to the systems he’s seen in cities like Pittsburgh. 

While healthcare organizations have traditionally focused on issues like compliance and security, Tennessee HIMSS is taking a more innovative approach, Thrailkill said.

“We’ve tried to broaden the traditional membership role to include everybody that’s working in and around healthcare, whether that’s on the digital side, the analytics side, the marketing or the services clinical side, and then create programs and events that are more around convergence, partnerships and innovation,” he explained.

Additionally, the organization’s workforce accelerator program is actively working to upscale Nashville’s current workforce while also growing new industry leaders.

Thrailkill encouraged listeners to attend Tennessee HIMSS’ Summit of the Southeast next April, where they’ll be able to hear from industry leaders and innovators about the future of healthcare.

“Nashville will be the leaders of healthcare services and innovation for the next 50 years. I do know that will be a significant challenge for us as a community, and I believe that what we need to do better is take the fragmented ecosystem that exists today and work better together through the community associations and through the programs and services that a number of organizations are championing,” he said.


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