Skip to Content
Author's profile photo Christine Donato

Mercy Leverages Technology to Improve Patient Health


In 1827 Catherine McAuley, funded by an unexpected inheritance, opened an educational institution in Ireland for homeless women and children called the House of Mercy. The institution was a success, prompting Catherine to found the Sisters of Mercy, the first religious order to visit the sick in their homes.

Later, the Sisters of Mercy expanded to the United States and founded the Mercy health system.

Today, Mercy is the seventh-largest Catholic health care system in the United States. The nonprofit organization employs nearly 40,000 people and serves millions of patients each year.

Continuing Innovation

Typically, each time a patient visits a doctor (primary care, OB/GYN, dermatologist, etc.) they are required to complete a patient information sheet.

Most of the time, patients are asked to recall family history, medical history, and personal information over and over at each visit. This information is crucial in order for a doctor to provide excellent care, but it can be difficult for many people to remember. This manual data input process is redundant, inefficient, and leaves room for error.

However, like the pioneering Catherine McAuley, Mercy is far advanced in comparison to other health systems.  Long before the Affordable Care Act’s meaningful-use incentive payments to health systems utilizing electronic health records (EHR), Mercy was up and running on Epic, its sole EHR provider of choice.

The implementation was an enormous transformation, and by 2008, this EHR system was the clinical system of record for all of Mercy’s patients. 

Although Mercy patients must still answer some important questions upon arrival at the doctor’s office, like allergies, smoking, and recent changes to health, for the most part, the hard-to-recall information is stored conveniently in electronic records.

More Data Analytics; Fewer Problems

Mercy decided to integrate solutions from the SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence (BI) suite within the Epic system to provide reporting functionality directly from the EHR.

With seamless, autonomous reporting fully embedded within the same system that manages patient data records, Mercy physicians and staff can quickly and efficiently compare and comprehend health data. This saves significant time and can help avoid the human error associated with manual reporting.

The Daily Visit Planner Tool

Mercy_2.PNGTo optimize patient data organization and comprehension, Mercy created the Daily Visit Planner tool to automatically gather patient information (from both the Epic system and from all accountable care organization[1] analytics) at the point of care. The result is a single-page view of disease management information.

The Daily Visit Planner tool identifies when patients are due for tests. It also notifies doctors of any special precautions required when treating a patient based on their medical history. It accounts for asthma, blood pressure, CAD, CHF, colorectal screening, COPD, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, frail elderly, preventative care, hypertension, and transition of care.

Since the implementation of the Daily Visit Planner, Mercy has helped over 300,000 patients for 50 clinical measures and 9 disease states.

In one year, Mercy has saved time and effort equivalent to 100 full-time employees and there has been a 10 percent performance improvement in preventative care for breast cancer screenings, colorectal screenings, and hemoglobin A1c values.

Continued Growth

In addition to solutions from the SAP BusinessObjects BI suite, Mercy is leveraging the SAP HANA platform to analyze patient data and compare the different types of care needed for different patients. Mercy is now able to analyze eight years’ worth of data in the same amount of time that it previously took to analyze two weeks’ worth.

A prime example of this is in Mercy’s operating rooms. Operational leaders now have access, not only to more data than in the past, but also to more advanced analysis than previously possible. This allows operational leaders to look at individual procedure types, compare providers, and determine the amount of opportunity to improve.

The result is accessible and actionable insight for a diverse set of treatment settings, fast data access, and a user-friendly interface that establishes key performance indicators to measure progress against strategic and operational goals.

Removing extra and unnecessary steps is saving money for Mercy and its patients. Savings on just one procedure type (total knee replacements) amounted to more than $1.2 million during Mercy’s first fiscal year with the new analytics technology in place.

Research Proof of Concept

Looking forward to the next generation of medical analytics, Mercy recently partnered with SAP to prototype a predictive-enabled, disease-state management solution. Leveraging the in-memory speed of SAP HANA, Mercy will be able to run predictive algorithms (including both proprietary and open-source models) that dynamically build patient cohorts and evaluate their outcomes. The tool will also allow care providers to see different treatment options and outcomes for patient groups that resemble the patient they are seeing.

Healthcare Thought leaders

Mercy is still making a difference 185 years after Catherine McAuley pushed the limits in Ireland. The organization stands out as a thought leader and influencer in the health care industry. Now having commercialized these analytics services, Mercy will work with smaller health systems to improve processes and care by implementing and applying its best practices and expertise.

I’d like to thank Jamie Oswald, Associate Principal Data Analyst at Mercy, for speaking with me at SAPPHIRE NOW 2015 and helping me craft this story.

For more information on Mercy, watch this video interview with Jamie and read the Customer Journey with Mercy.

To  learn how your organization can benefit from big data analytics, click here.

Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

[1] Accountable Care Organizations are groups of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers, who come together voluntarily to give coordinated, high-quality care to their Medicare patients (

Assigned Tags

      You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Thanks Christine, it was great to meet/work with you!

      Author's profile photo Christine Donato
      Christine Donato
      Blog Post Author

      The pleasure was mine! It was great getting to talk to you, Jamie.  The passion you have for what Mercy is doing in the technology space is inspiring!