Pharmacist Candy Eggleston at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center found a way to save both patients and the hospital hundreds of thousands of dollars each year after she learned health informatics in a new class provided by CHI St. Luke's Health donors.

What is even better is that she gathered the data by only spending 90 cents per thermometer strip to adhere to bags of antibiotics to confirm the medication had been kept in safe temperatures while in patients’ rooms. That simple measure allowed medical staff to recycle the antibiotics back to the pharmacy rather than throwing away unused portions of the medicine.

Eggleston concluded patients are saving by not being charged for the whole bag of Daptomycin and the hospital is avoiding waste and saving costs as well.

“We go through about 300 bags of Daptomycin a month in the hospital. The patients are charged about $3,000 per bag. Throughout the year, we could save hundreds of thousands of dollars,” the pharmacist said.

Eggleston was among the first class of 21 students of CHI St. Luke’s Health employees who completed the online Health Informatics Certification Program at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Biomedical Informatics (SBMI). The program concluded with a poster session of the students’ projects, including Eggleston’s data analysis of preventing waste of medication, and they received their certification.

The training allows these employees to more effectively analyze and use data from electronic health records to improve efficiency and patients’ health outcomes. Students in the class included an ER physician, pharmacist, a manager of the MRI department, and a coordinator of transplant services.

“This Health Informatics class combined how to extract data in order for doctors, nurses and other staff to do their work more efficiently,” Eggleston said.

The Cullen Trust for Health Care and the M.D. Anderson Foundation funded the certification program, providing tuition and books for CHI St. Luke’s staff. The chair for The Cullen Trust for Health Care, Cullen Geiselman, attended the Poster Session and talked with several graduates about the real-world impact the training has for healthcare.

Other class members’ posters included “Improving Diabetic Education Prior to Discharge for Liver Transplant Patients” and “Improving Documentation on Ventilation Weaning in Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Patients.”

Elizabeth Dozier, RN, called the class “eye-opening” in dealing with not only EPIC electronic records, but also gathering quality-driven information.

“The question more and more in healthcare is ‘Where’s the data?’” Dozier said.

Jiajie Zhang, PhD, dean of the UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics, is among those instrumental in making this program a reality along with Avery Cloud, CHI St. Luke’s Vice President of Innovation.

“As healthcare institutions increasingly confront major challenges in the provision of care, clinical, and technology teams must be aligned to ensure that patient care and fiscal goals can be met,” Zhang said.

“I am so proud that SBMI and CHI St. Luke’s Health are partnering with The Cullen Trust for Health Care and the M.D. Anderson Foundation on this seminal pilot program. By building a culture focused on informatics-based patient care, health service organizations can make better use of available data to improve outcomes, while containing costs.”